Fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa

Women with children queue for water in a refugee camp in Dollow on the Somali-Ethiopian border.

Women with children queue for water in a refugee camp in Dollow on the Somali-Ethiopian border., © UNICEF/UN0782140/Sewunet

25.05.2023 - Article

The people in the Horn of Africa are suffering a once-in-a-century drought. It has hardly rained for five years now. This has a drastic impact on food security. Germany is massively expanding its assistance for the region.

The main reason that people are going hungry is the drought – the last rainy season in many parts of the Horn of Africa was now five years ago. Many millions of people there are subsistence farmers. They work in agriculture or raise cattle. People are dependent on what their fields and animals provide. Previously, the annual rainy season was what guaranteed their survival. It ensured that vegetables and cereals grew, that there was enough drinking water and animal feed. The last rainy season in many parts of the region was now five years ago. With every passing year, the lack of rain causes more people to lose their livelihoods. The ground dries out, plants wither, and around 11 million cows, goats and sheep have already died, according to estimates by the United Nations.

Worsening spiral of climate crisis and conflict

But the drought is not the only reason for this humanitarian emergency. Armed conflict is also a recurrent cause of hardship, displacement and forced migration. In addition, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is having a severe impact on supply chains and on wheat and fertiliser prices worldwide, making it unaffordable for many people to shop at their local market. As a result, they are forced to skip meals and they become increasingly malnourished.

Concrete assistance for people in need

Germany will provide 210 million euro in the coming two years to help secure the livelihoods and thus the survival of people in the Horn of Africa, together with relief organisations.

One of these partners is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). With its work in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, it tackles the problem at the proverbial root – because as climatic conditions change, so too does the way that food must be grown. Supported by the Federal Foreign Office, the FAO is assisting 115,000 particularly vulnerable families, for example by providing drought-resistant seeds or helping them to feed their animals. The aim is to support people so that they can eventually return to providing for themselves.

Another partner is Help Age, which works with local relief organisations to support refugees and internally displaced persons in Ethiopia. More than 42,500 people will receive concrete support between now and the end of 2024, for example special foods to treat severe malnutrition, or seeds and farming equipment – or sanitary and hygiene packages for women and girls. Older people with impaired vision will receive mobility training to help them go about their daily lives. The Federal Foreign Office is providing 2.75 million euro to this end.

There is also the non-governmental organisation IRC, which treats malnourished children in Oromia, Ethiopia, as part of a special regional programme tailored to the needs of internally displaced persons, refugees, returnees, host communities and especially vulnerable groups. As well as meeting people’s basic needs, the organisation focuses in particular on the prevention and treatment of complications affecting women and adolescent girls during pregnancy and childbirth – because hunger often goes hand in hand with other problems that influence and exacerbate one another.

The Federal Foreign Office provides assistance in line with its humanitarian principles. In addition, it makes a particular effort to ensure that the people who are most heavily affected benefit from assistance and that this assistance is suitable for their differing needs, especially the needs of women and children.

In the coming two years Germany will provide 210 million euro to alleviate the suffering of the people in the Horn of Africa. The Federal Foreign Office has a total of 2.7 billion euro of funding available for humanitarian assistance in 2023. Worldwide, as the need for this assistance grows, the German Government is advocating for provision to become increasingly efficient – and for other states to play a greater role in humanitarian efforts, too, as far as they are able.


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