Nairobi, Kenya — The U.S. government is giving an additional $200 million to support humanitarian initiatives in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where more than 20 million people are in need of food, water and medicine. Lack of rain in the region has led to the driest conditions in 40 years.
Speaking online to journalists, Sarah Charles of the U.S. Agency for International Development outlined how drought has impacted the lives of millions in the Horn of Africa.
“The frequency and severity of drought in the region and the scale of humanitarian needs are increasing, exposing the devastating trend of climate change that disproportionately affects the world’s poorest communities. Already 1.5 million livestock has died, and crops are non-existent in affected areas. In some areas, including Kenya and southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, conflict has broken out over scarce resources. An alarming number of children are acutely malnourished and we are also seeing a devastating report from Somalia of young girls being forced to marry in exchange for food and water,” she said.
Charles said Tuesday the U.S. government is providing another $200 million to help get food and medical supplies to millions in the region. The aid will boost U.S. government aid for drought victims to more than $360 million this year.
However, that number is just a fraction of the funding needed. U.N. humanitarian agencies say they will need $4.4 billion to fully scale up their relief efforts in the region.
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than six million people in the Horn are feeling the impact of the drought. It says more than 750,000 have left their homes in search of water, food and pasture. Some 3 million people are internally displaced in Somalia alone.
In even more dire news, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said 2 million children in the Horn are at risk of starving to death.
Aid agencies trying to help hungry people in northern Ethiopia have been hampered by the region’s volatile security situation. Charles said the problem is especially acute in the Tigray region.
“We are facing in Tigray almost unprecedented challenges with access obstruction in terms of bureaucratic obstruction, conflict, violence, difficulty reaching those who are most in need of assistance. And we have seen over the last two weeks a small convoy of assistance, the latest one yesterday reached Mekele for the first time in several months,” she said.
A poor start to the rainy season has heightened fears the drought and its impact in the Horn will get worse.
Humanitarian agencies say that even if good rains arrive, they cannot quickly reverse the suffering the drought has caused to millions.