By Gift Briton

Extreme food insecurity caused by drought resulting from persistent depressed rains is expected to affect up to 26 million people across the Eastern Horn of Africa by February 2023, should the October to December rains fail, Food Security and Nutrition Working Group(FSNWG) report reveals.

According to the report, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia recorded extremely poor rainfall during the March to June long rains season for the fourth consecutive time with over 80 percent of the regions being affected, an occurrence not seen in the last 40 years, resulting in poor crops and livestock production, poor health and increase in commodity prices.

With the northern and eastern Kenya, southern and southeastern Ethiopia and Somalia having already faced three consecutive below-average rainy season, the report notes that depressed rainfall recorded during the 2022 March to May (MAM) rainy season is likely to make the drought situation even worse.

According to the report, seasonal crops were affected by severe rainfall deficits during the first half of the long rains, with the cumulative precipitation amounts estimated at 50 to 85 percent below average. However, rains improved during the second half of the seasonal rains creating a positive impact on vegetation conditions, unfortunately, the crop recovery was modest as the rains were late.

As a result, low harvests, reduced milk production and death of more than nine million livestock occurred leading to a soar in food prices due to the combined effects of the ongoing war in Ukraine and fuel prices.

Moreover, the drought forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate from their homes in search of life-saving assistance subsequently  leading to an increase in resource-based conflicts, and risks for gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and over 16 million people thrown into daily household water insecurity resulting in cholera outbreaks cases across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, however, access to availability and quality of health services have been negatively affected by the drought.

According to the report, between January and June 2022, over 560,000 children were admitted for Severe Acute Malnutrition treatment in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and with the below average harvests and livestock production caused by the depressed rains, other five million children are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition, of which almost two million face severe wasting.

The report estimates that up to 21 million people face high levels of acute food insecurity due to the drought in the three countries including more than three million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Kenya and Somalia, 213,180 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Somalia and others facing Risk of Famine through September over some parts of southern and central Somalia.

Therefore, there is need of humanitarian assistance and a call for a significant urgent need to scale up interventions that provide food assistance to affected households, where USD 1.8 billion is required to scale up drought response over the next months.

However, with the drought response being severely underfunded, the report urges that funding for the multi-sectoral drought response needs to be scaled up immediately across the region in order to save lives.