5 August 2019
by MARK LEON GOLDBERG
A solar-powered well and desalination system installed by Oxfam in Ceel Midgan in eastern Somaliland treats salty ground water and makes it drinkable for people and animals. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
The Horn of Africa region, which includes parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, is experiencing a severe drought. This region has been particularly vulnerable to droughts in recent years–but the situation this summer has become increasingly dire and is raising the prospect of a widespread humanitarian emergency.
A little background: In the summer of 2011, there was a similar drought in the region. But warnings about the humanitarian consequences of this drought went largely unheeded until the drought lead to a famine — the first of the 21st century. Over the subsequent weeks and months over 260,000 people died, making this famine one of the worst mass atrocities of this decade.
That was 2011. In 2017, there was another drought. But this time, the international community and governments in the region responded with urgency. They were able to provide humanitarian assistance and other aid and interventions that prevented the tragedy of 2011 from being repeated.
This brings us So that is all some recent historic background to an email that landed in my inbox from Oxfam, which compared data around the humanitarian response in 2011 to the response to the current ongoing drought, which shows that compared to 2011, the humanitarian needs are greater and the international response is far less robust. This of course suggests that unless something changes, the current drought could lead to another famine.
On the line with me to discuss the current humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa is Dustin Barter, the regional drought policy and advocacy lead, Oxfam. He authored a report comparing the impact of the 2011, 2017 and current drought and the international humanitarian response.
If you have 20 minutes and want to learn why the international community ought to be paying attention to an incipient humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa, have a listen