Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Jul 30, 2012

One Year Later: Horn of Africa Food Crisis

Horn of Africa - One Year On
Horn of Africa - One Year On

July 2012

CARE has responded to drought and food insecurity in the Horn of Africa with crucial immediate and long-term aid to approximately 2.8 million people, including more than 460,000 residents of the Dadaab refugee camps. On an average day of food distribution, CARE distributes 300 metric tons of food to 39,000 people.


On July 20, 2011, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of Somalia – an extremely serious designation, indicating that hundreds of thousand s of people were at imminent risk of starving to death. The declaration cast a spotlight on a crisis that had been developing for many months: in the face of a devastating drought and food crisis, over 12 million people in the Horn of Africa region, including parts of the nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, were in need of immediate food aid.

In the year since then, much has been accomplished. Large-scale humanitarian interventions by CARE and other agencies have helped save many lives. But families still struggle to feed themselves, and remain highly vulnerable to future events such as poor harvests, conflict-related displacement or a rise in commodity prices. Many who survived the worst of the crisis have been left without the reserves to withstand further shocks.

The outlook for seasonal rains during the remaining months of 2012 is fair but cannot be guaranteed. As the Sahel region, in northwestern Africa, also descends into a similar crisis, CARE is redoubling our efforts in the Horn of Africa to implement long-term solutions to build communities’ resilience and combat the repeated cycle of food crises.

The support of donors in providing flexible resources is crucial to allow us to respond to signs of an impending food emergency. CARE advocates with governments, communities, individuals and the international community for the necessary political will to act quickly. The experience of the past year has taught us that early warning and monitoring systems are only as valuable as the commitment to intervene in time to avert crisis.

CARE’s Response

During the reporting period, CARE reached some 2.8 million people in the worst-affected countries, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, 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.

Examples of CARE’s primary focus areas in the Horn of Africa include:

Food and nutrition assistance: Distributions of food supplies, including staples targeted at pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and other vulnerable people; emergency treatment for child malnourishment through stabilization centers, outpatient therapeutic programs and supplementary feeding programs; and distribution of materials such as Plumpy’nut, a fortified peanut-based paste used as a front line treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities: Water trucking, construction and rehabilitation of latrines, boreholes, water pans, hand washing stands, livestock water points and water storage tanks; hygiene promotion and training; distribution of water purification tabs; and distribution of soap and water cans.

Livelihood activities: Distribution of seeds, agricultural inputs like fertilizer, provision of small farm animals like goats, sheep and chickens, veterinary services and training for pastoral communities, targeted reduction of herd sizes with compensation to owners, cash for work, unconditional cash transfers, and monthly distribution of food vouchers.

Details on the reach of CARE’s work in affected countries include:


As part of our commitment to building long-term drought resilience, CARE works closely with the Ethiopian government and communities to strengthen the social safety net in heavily affected areas. These include the East and West Hararghe zones of Oromia region and the southern region of Borena, home to traditional pastoral populations whose way of life is increasingly threatened by drought, climate change and reduced access to water and range land. Targeted food distributions, supplementary nutrition and emergency treatment for child malnutrition have been particularly effective in staving off the worst effects of the crisis.

CARE’s response to food insecurity in Ethiopia focuses on water and sanitation, food distribution and livelihoods, with a strong focus on addressing traditional gender inequities. Ongoing challenges include overreliance on rain-fed agriculture, population pressure, recurrent drought, land degradation and stringent government regulations of nongovernmental organizations.

Total number of individuals reached: 1,239,618

Food and nutrition

  • Number of people reached through food and nutrition interventions: 562,250
  • Number of families that received food distributions: 106,952
  • Number of children treated for acute malnutrition: 54,314
  • Number of pregnant and nursing women treated for acute malnutrition: 20,390
  • Basic monthly food package distributed, per person: 15 kilograms(kg.) of cereals (wheat or sorghum), 1.5 kg. yellow split peas and 0.45 kg. vegetable oil
  • Cost of one monthly food distribution package, per person: $9.77


  • Number of people reached through livelihoods interventions: 164,795
  • Number of families receiving seed distributions: 15,594
  • Number of families receiving animals:
    • Poultry: 480 families
    • Goats or sheep: 439 families


  • Number of people reached by WASH interventions: 512,573
  • Number of individuals reached by water trucking activities: 97,140
  • Total number of water points rehabilitated: 13


Despite the inherent challenges to humanitarian work in Somalia, CARE continues to maintain and expand our response in areas including WASH (water points, latrines and hygiene interventions); nutrition; supply of non-food items (NFIs); food security through cash-for-work activities, food vouchers and cash relief; and protection for vulnerable populations including women threatened by sexual and gender-based violence. Our existing program areas in the relatively secure Puntland and Somaliland regions are being supplemented by new program areas in Lower Juba and Mogadishu. CARE is able to maintain and expand our reach through longstanding relationships with local partners.

Challenges to our work in Somalia include insecurity and military intervention; threats to aid workers and decreasing respect for humanitarian neutrality in southern Somalia; weak local authorities and communities; difficulties inherent in remote management; limited capacity of some local partners; overtaxed CARE staff; the chronic nature of drought and food insecurity; and the rise of new “states” in already volatile areas.


Total number of individuals reached: 588,101

Food, nutrition and livelihoods

  • Number of people reached through food, nutrition and livelihoods interventions: 220,988
  • Value of food voucher per household (average six persons) per month: $70
  • Items provided with one food voucher: 25 kg. rice, 2.5 kg. sugar, 25 kg. wheat flour, 6 kg. oil, 3 kg. dates, 25 kg. beans
  • Value of unconditional cash grant per household per month: $80

Non-food items (NFIs)

  • Number of people reached through distribution of NFI (kitchen/sanitary) kits: 52,158
  • Content of one NFI kit: plastic sheets, sanitary cloth, kitchen utensils, jerry cans, sleeping mats, blankets, soap
  • Cost of one NFI kit: $62


  • Number of people reached through WASH interventions: 314,955
  • Number of latrines constructed : 1,250
  • Number of displaced people reached by water trucking activities: 11,432
  • Number of water filters distributed: 1,495


A major focus of CARE’s food security response in Kenya involves distribution of food and water to the entire population of the three refugee camps at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee site (see details below). At the same time, we are continuing our long-term response to drought-affected parts of northern Kenya, with a broad range of programming in water, sanitation, hygiene, and efforts to help communities become more resistant to shocks.

Our ongoing priorities in Kenya include cash-for-work activities to rehabilitate water infrastructure; building natural resources management and water infrastructure management capacity of communities; and continuing to expand our community-managed disaster risk reduction programming to minimize impact of future droughts. Challenges facing CARE’s operations in the country include severe threats in the Dadaab camps; insecurity in parts of northern Kenya; and the potential risk of conflict in the 2013 election year.

Total number of individuals reached: 940,294 (includes beneficiaries of long-term resilience programming in northwestern Kenya, not counted in the Dadaab figures below)

Details on CARE’s response in the Dadaab refugee camps, the world’s largest

  • Number of people reached through food distributions and WASH interventions: 463,512 (total population of the camps)
  • Number of people reached through education activities: 16,945
  • Number of children enrolled in accelerated learning in primary schools: 902
  • Number of hand-washing stations constructed in 14 refugee schools: 28
  • Number of families receiving food distributions: 97,818
  • Number of families receiving NFIs, including sanitation kits: 115,183
  • Content of sanitation kit: wheelbarrow, rake, shovel, nose mask, gloves, rubber boots, overalls, hat
  • Number of families receiving hygiene training: 1,902
  • Number of people receiving psychosocial counseling and services responding to sexual and gender-based violence: 49,977 (including 29,427 women and girls)


The small country of Djibouti – site of the most recent expansion of CARE’s response in the Horn of Africa – has received insufficient rainfall since 2005. Two-thirds of the country received below-average rain during the 2012 March-May rainy season, causing a further depletion of water reserves, deterioration of livestock health and milk production, and massive loss of livestock and livelihoods.


CARE’s work in Djibouti focuses on health and nutrition services, including a health center serving mostly Somali refugees in the Ali-Addeh camp, as well as the surrounding host population. The camp was established in 1991 to accommodate about 7,000 refugees, but currently hosts more than 21,000. Due to influxes of refugees fleeing the 2011 drought, the camp is overcrowded, with services and infrastructure under extreme pressure. A second camp was opened at Holl Holl in June. Absorbing these refugees has placed a major strain on Djibouti’s 800,000 people – two-thirds of whom already lived below the poverty line before the crisis, and one-fifth of whom are themselves in dire need of humanitarian assistance.


Levels of emergency funding are very low in Djibouti compared to other countries in the Horn of Africa. Aside from United Nations agencies, there are very few humanitarian actors. CARE has been operational in Djibouti since January 2012.


Total number of individuals reached: 50,000

  • Refugee camps provided with health and sanitation services: Ali-Addeh and Holl Holl
  • Population of Ali-Addeh camp: 21,000, mainly Somali refugees (in a camp intended for about 7,000 refugees)
  • Additional water and sanitation project serving host communities in the district of Ali Sabieh where the camps are located


The food security crisis in Horn of Africa was thrown into sharp relief one year ago with the declaration of famine in parts of Somalia. Donors responded generously, and CARE was able to scale up our lifesaving emergency response. But this is not a short-term crisis. People whose age-old lifestyles are under threat need help adapting to the realities of a changing climate. CARE is committed over the long term to helping communities develop more diverse and sustainable livelihoods. We offer our sincere thanks for your support as we take on those challenges.



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Organization Information


Location: Atlanta, GA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Melanie Minzes
Washington, DC United States

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