UN allocates 45m dollars to avert famine risks in Horn of Africa

The UN humanitarian chief has allocated 45 million US dollars from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya facing food shortages due to low rainfall and drought, a UN spokesman said Thursday.

Spokesman for UN secretary-general, Farhan Haq, said the bulk of the funds – 30m dollars – will go to Somalia, where 2.2 million people may face acute food insecurity by September, marking a 40 per cent jump from January.

Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock made the allocation “to immediately scale up food and nutrition assistance, safe water provision, livelihoods protection, and other urgent humanitarian support” in the three Horn of African countries, said CERF on its website.

Established by the UN General Assembly in 2005 as the United Nations global emergency response fund, CERF enables humanitarian responders to deliver life-saving assistance whenever and wherever crises strike.

In Somalia, the failed April to June rainy season follows below-average performance of the short rains, which fall between October and December.

“Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases. Aid agencies in Somalia are also overstretched and grappling with a severe lack of funding,” said Lowcock.

On 20 May, aid agencies launched a drought response plan seeking 710m dollars to urgently help 4.5 million people. Somalia’s overall Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019, requiring 1.08 billion dollars, is only 22 per cent funded. The Somalia Humanitarian Fund is currently depleted.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s region neighboring Somalia is experiencing a second consecutive drought season while still reeling from the effects of the prolonged drought in 2016 and 2017.

Announcing CERF’s contribution of 10m dollars to Ethiopia, Lowcock urged donors to increase their support for drought response, in addition to critical assistance to the ongoing nationwide response to internal displacement.

In Kenya, CERF’s allocation of 5m dollars will complement the government’s hunger safety net program. Parts of the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya are hard hit by drought following a delayed start to the March to May rains.

While droughts remain a recurrent weather phenomenon across the Horn of Africa region, Lowcock has been calling for more systematic early action, including the release of funds, based on early warnings, to help mitigate expected humanitarian consequences through a range of activities carried out before the onset of a crisis.