On July 20, 2011, the United Nations took the drastic step of declaring parts of southern Somalia in famine. In so doing, it recognized that hundreds of thousands of people were at imminent risk of starving to death. As the crisis spread to more regions, the number of people in famine zones eventually reached 750,000. An estimated 13 million people were in critical need of food aid. Suddenly the Horn of Africa, a region seemingly so often in crisis, was in the global spotlight again. The world finally took notice of a dire situation.
In reality, the emergency in Somalia – and neighboring countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya – had been long growing. Drought, a recurring phenomenon in this part of the world, has become increasingly devastating, due to factors including climate change, population pressures, new limits on access to water and pastureland, conflict, and poor or non-existent governance in some places. Six months later, the same number of people remain food insecure, in what remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The relief effort faces sobering new challenges, particularly in the area of security. Several national and international military forces are now involved in the conflict in southern Somalia. Escalating violence, suicide bombings, attacks on civilians, kidnappings and killings of aid workers, and the wholesale expulsion and looting of 16 U.N. agencies and other humanitarian groups by militants are leaving hundreds of thousands of desperate people without help, at a time of enormous need.
And yet we have made important progress. In the six months since the famine declaration, the situation has become marginally less critical. Today, “only” 250,000 Somalis remain in a famine situation, thanks to rapid humanitarian response and resumed rains in some areas. CARE and our partner agencies continue to scale up our emergency aid and longer-term efforts to help people become more resilient in the future. But the challenges remain huge, even as global attention has shifted elsewhere.
This will not be the last or the worst crisis of its kind. Traditionally, nomadic herders have responded to periodic drought by migrating to fresh sources of water and pasture. As climate change and environmental degradation continue their grim march, these age-old coping mechanisms are no longer sufficient. The only question is when, and how severe, the next drought will be. And the only solution is long-term adaptation.
The winds of change are blowing across the Horn of Africa, and its people critically need assistance adjusting to a new age.
CARE has scaled up our response in the worst affected countries. Currently we are reaching over 1.8 million people with crucial assistance including food, safe water, sanitation, health, education, livelihood assistance and protection for the most vulnerable people, including survivors of gender-based violence.
In addition to immediate relief, we support a number of long-term responses to the reality of recurrent drought – including innovative livelihood approaches to help vulnerable people earn a living in ways less dependent on the unpredictable rainfall.
Some examples of CARE’s most recent emergency operations, by country, include:
The most recent expansion of CARE’s response in the Horn of Africa is to Djibouti. This small country bordering Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia faces a disproportionate burden from the effects of drought, not just on its own people, but also due to the influx of refugees from neighboring countries. After six consecutive years of drought and erratic rainfall, more than 200,000 of Djibouti’s 800,000 people – two-thirds of whom already lived below the poverty line – are considered in need of humanitarian aid. The country has absorbed more than 22,000 refugees.
After conducting an assessment of the most critical needs, CARE determined that the best use of our resources is in Ali Addeh district, which hosts most newly arrived refugees but struggles with poor health, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation conditions.
Our approach, focused on refugee camps, will reach both refugees and host community members with health and nutrition services, including the opening of a health center with a target population of about 19,000. The emergency response will focus on providing first aid, nutritional screening, vaccination, referral to secondary health care. As well, the activities will include ensuring access to safe water and improved hygiene practices.
CARE will pay special attention to the most vulnerable refugees and host communities affected, including women and children, and will provide psychosocial support to survivors of trauma and sexual violence. CARE’s intervention will have an emphasis on building local capacity, in order to ensure sustainability.
As elsewhere in the region, CARE’s long-term objective in Ethiopia is to promote resilience in the face of future food emergencies. In the meantime, to meet immediate needs, we are continuing relief operations, reaching more than 709,000 people to date with interventions in four sectors: food assistance; water, sanitation and hygiene; nutrition; and support to livelihoods including agriculture and livestock rearing.
CARE’s emergency food distributions, in cooperation with the government and our humanitarian partners, are in their seventh round, reaching a total of about 450,000 people in Oromia Regional State, East Hararghe, West Hararghe and the Borana and Dewe zones of Afar region.
Other recent activities include:
Nutrition and Food
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
1. The Dadaab refugee camps
CARE distributes lifesaving aid, including food and water, to more than 460,000 refugees in the Dadaab camps in Kenya, the largest refugee site in the world.
The operating environment remains complex due to ongoing security concerns. In recent months escalating conflict between the Kenyan military and militants has been accompanied by fatal attacks on camp residents, threats to community leaders and the discovery of landmines and explosive devices within the camp area. The flow of new refugees into the camps has declined dramatically due to the conflict and Kenya’s official sealing of the border with Somalia.
As a result of the tense situation, many CARE activities and those of our humanitarian partners remain suspended. However, all lifesaving interventions, including regular food and water distributions to the all of the camp’s registered residents, continue uninterrupted. Furthermore, CARE’s dedicated team of 1,600 refugee workers, who live and work in the camps, continue to provide services including education and psychosocial support even in locations that are inaccessible to non-refugee staff.
CARE’s work in Dadaab falls into the following sectors:
2. Other affected areas in Kenya
In addition to hosting large numbers of refugees, parts of northern Kenya are themselves severely affected by drought. CARE maintains a broad range of programming in water, sanitation, hygiene, and longer-term efforts to help communities become more resilient. To date almost 477,000 people have received CARE’s help directly or indirectly through family members. Examples of our recent activities include:
Despite the critical security situation in south central Somalia, CARE continues to scale up our humanitarian response. We operate both independently and through local partners in various parts of the country. Our priority regions include relatively stable parts of northern Somalia that are struggling to accommodate displaced people from the south.
Our emergency work in Somalia covers the sectors of water, sanitation and hygiene; food security; livelihoods; health/nutrition; and the distribution of other critical supplies. Our longer-term objectives include a variety of approaches to help communities build resiliency and sustainable livelihoods.
Recent activities include:
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene:
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