6 November 2009
East Africa has always been a drought-prone region, but 25 years on from the famine in Ethiopia, which made the world sit up and take notice, the situation is again deteriorating.
This year, countries severely affected by drought and increased food prices include Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti. More than 23 million people are facing a major food crisis with significant threat to lives and livelihoods.
One reason the situation hasn’t improved is because climate change means weather-related disasters are happening with increasing frequency and intensity. And the number affected is rising dramatically because coping mechanisms are being utterly ripped apart as people don’t have time to recover.
In east Africa, rains used to fail around every ten years. Then it started happening every three to five years. Now, some people need aid every year as a result of the cumulative impacts of drought and increased poverty.
Mary Atkinson, food security and livelihoods adviser, says: “Over the last decade, food aid for millions hasn’t reduced longer term vulnerability because it doesn’t address the root causes.
“To tackle this the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is now focusing on longer-term livelihoods programmes in east Africa that address immediate needs and build resilience to future crises.”
Red Cross support
In Djibouti the British Red Cross is supporting one such programme, which provides one-off micro-loans. Many pastoralists – who move their animals around in search of fresh pasture and water – have lost their livestock as a result of the drought. They are now living on the fringes of the capital, Djibouti City and the loans will help them start new livelihoods.
In Kenya, the Federation launched an emergency appeal as pastoralists have also watched their cattle die and farmers have lost harvests. The emergency response includes food, water and sanitation and also livelihood recovery – helping people become more resilient through growing improved drought-resistant crops.
Read about the emergencies we are currently responding to