Hungry, thirsty, severely weakened – this is the situation of millions of people in East African countries such as Kenya, Somalia or Ethiopia. People are suffering from the effects of extreme drought. As a result, around 14 million people in East Africa are currently going hungry. They are struggling to survive.
Drought in East Africa: No Water, No Harvest, No Food
The situation is currently life-threatening, especially in northern Kenya, many parts of Somalia and southern Ethiopia. The lack of rain is a silent disaster for the people in East Africa. The situation is dramatic: the soil is far too dry to grow crops or vegetables. For smallholder families, this means no harvest and not enough to eat. Many pastoralist families have already lost up to 70 percent of their livestock –which is often their only source of income and their livelihood. As a result, they can no longer afford to buy food at the markets. The situation is exacerbated by the sharp rise in global food prices. Millions of lives are threatened by hunger.
The situation is dramatic. People are in danger of starvation if help is not provided quickly.Kelvin Shingles Country Officer of Welthungerhilfe in Kenya
Help now: With your donation, you can support us in reaching people in need in East Africa with our emergency aid.
Drought in East Africa: No End in Sight
Due to the prolonged and recurring droughts, people, animals and nature in East Africa can hardly recover. Even when it rains, the arid soil can barely store the water. As a result, sudden rainfall sometimes leads to flooding in the drought-affected regions. In addition, East Africa has many overlapping disasters that weaken people's resilience: In the last two years, the region has repeatedly had to cope with major locust plagues. Add to this the Covid-19 pandemic and violent conflicts. All these crises lead to additional crop failure and thus to hunger. Some 14 million people in East Africa are already suffering from hunger. It is feared that this number will increase if no rapid aid is provided now.
Welthungerhilfe is on the ground preparing emergency relief measures to protect the people in East Africa from further suffering.
A drought is a prolonged dry period. The absence of rainfall leads to water shortages. Water scarcity can have a variety of dramatic health, agricultural, economic, and environmental impacts. Droughts threaten people's livelihoods, increase the risk of disease and death. These climate change-induced circumstances lead to increased migration.
The rise in temperature due to climate change is causing already dry regions to become drier and wet regions to become wetter. In East Africa, this means in many places that rising temperatures are causing water to evaporate more quickly. This increases the risk of droughts. In addition, droughts tend to last longer due to global warming.
During prolonged droughts, people suffer from thirst, poor water quality, crop failure, hunger and poverty. Drought hits people in rural areas particularly hard. Without food aid or support from governments or aid organizations, long periods of drought can end in famine.
Welthungerhilfe is active in many regions of East Africa – support our emergency aid with a donation.
These Countries are Affected by the Drought in East Africa
The situation is dramatic. Nearly three million people are affected by drought and hunger in Kenya and need humanitarian aid. The government has declared a state of emergency. In October 2021, some areas on the coast and in southeastern Kenya reported the lowest rainfall since 1981, and Kenya's worsening drought has significantly affected crop production. Over half a million children are acutely malnourished and require treatment. Water sources for people and their livestock have dried up. Families are forced to walk long distances to access water. This leads to tensions between communities and increases conflict. The livelihoods of pastoralists in particular are threatened. In the regions of Kajiado, Tana River and Marsabit, many animals have already died, and the remaining herds are in poor health. Many children can no longer attend school because they do not have enough to eat and have to travel long distances in search of water.
More than six million people across the country are in urgent need of food aid. Water reserves are almost exhausted, and more than one million animals have already died. Many parts of the country have still not recovered from the catastrophic drought in 2016: Ten million people were threatened by extreme hunger, and many lost their lives. The long-term damage of the recurring drought mainly affects pastoralists and farmers. Only 40 percent of the 1.2 million inhabitants have access to clean drinking water.
In November 2021, the government of Somalia declared a state of emergency. The drought has now reached 90 percent of the country. This means that, according to the UN, 4.5 million people in Somalia are affected by the drought disaster. In some regions, the rainy season is failing for the third year in a row. Thousands of people have left their villages in search of water, food and pasture. Somaliland is also affected by the drought. Farmers have been unable to sow crops due to the drought. Livestock trade is suffering extremely. Depending on the region, about 50-90 percent of the livestock has died, and the remaining animals can hardly be sold due to their poor condition.
... are enough to give a family in Somaliland, for example, access to clean water for three months.
for instance, provide a family in Kenya with the most needed basic foodstuffs for one month.
Frequently asked questions about the drought in East Africa
What causes drought in Africa?
When urgently needed rainy seasons fail to materialize or turn out to be far too short, droughts occur. The lack of water can lead to soil erosion and even desertification. A major reason for persistent soil drought is man-made climate change. Here you can find more information about soil erosion.
Why is the Horn of Africa repeatedly affected by famine crises?
The region repeatedly experiences extreme weather such as droughts and floods. The soil is far too dry to grow crops or vegetables. For smallholder families, this means no harvest and not enough to eat. Without fodder and water, the animals of the pastoralist families die. In addition, the prices for basic foodstuffs are rising enormously. Many people can no longer afford to buy food at the markets and have to go hungry. After last year's locust plague and in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, people no longer have any reserves to counter the drought. Poverty, wars and armed conflicts are also drivers of hunger. Decades of exploitation by industrialized nations are making it difficult for many African countries to extricate themselves from the poverty trap.
How can the incidence of drought in Africa be reduced?
Many extreme weather events such as droughts are due to climate change, or are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of climate change. Mitigating the climate crisis is therefore an important step in combating hunger. This requires political solutions. But even on a small scale, everyone can make a contribution and help slow down climate change by living a sustainable lifestyle. Prevention is one of the most important measures to mitigate disasters such as crop failures. Welthungerhilfe uses various tools and measures to provide humanitarian aid before disasters occur. Early warning systems with prediction-based risk management enable affected people to act early in the event of a foreseeable drought and initiate food security measures. Such measures are vital for the survival of the worst-affected populations.
What are the consequences of drought?
Persistent droughts deprive millions of people of their livelihoods. Harvests fail, and supplies are quickly used up in many places. Crop losses plunge people into double misery. On the one hand, families can no longer live off their own produce; on the other, food prices skyrocket due to the shortage. People living in poverty cannot pay these prices and have to suffer from hunger. Water shortages also exacerbate the potential for unrest and fighting over the scarce resource, especially in politically unstable countries. Conflicts and precarious living situations lead to people having to flee to other regions or countries.