Jaro Dubais a Concern programme participant in North Horr, Kenya. Photo: Ed RamJaro Dubais a Concern programme participant in North Horr, Kenya. Photo: Ed RamJaro Dubais a Concern programme participant in North Horr, Kenya. Photo: Ed Ram

Struggling for survival: a close look at the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa

Struggling for survival: a close look at the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa
Story20 September 2021Lucy Bloxham

For years, people in the Horn of Africa have struggled to survive conflict and the devastating impacts of climate change. Now, Covid-19 has caused huge food shortages and brought people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of Sudan, Somalia and South Sudan to the brink of a hunger crisis.

Where is the Horn of Africa?

The Horn of Africa is the easternmost peninsula of the African continent, excluding African islands. The number of countries of which the region comprises varies. Some publications recognise it as being home to four countries, (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia), however others define the Horn of Africa as comprising eight countries; Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. For the purposes of this piece, we will recognise the Horn of Africa as the latter.

Horn of Africa map. Credit: World Atlas
Horn of Africa map. Credit: World Atlas

The Horn of Africa also alludes to the shape of this area because it sticks out like that of a rhinoceros horn from the continent. It is known as one of the most inhospitable places on Earth; the landscape is made of sand and volcanic rock, while temperatures can reach up to 60 degrees Celsius.

Humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa

The East and Horn of Africa is the region with one of the most serious levels of hunger and malnutrition in the world. Conflict and climate change have forced many people in the Horn of Africa to flee their homes, and the impact of Covid-19 has worsened the situation. There are now more than 8.8 million internally displaced people and 4.5 million refugees across East Africa, primarily due to conflict and violence in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan [Relief Web]. With little or no money, and no chance of employment, displaced people are especially vulnerable to food insecurity.

Moreover, millions of people, particularly those living in urban areas, lost their livelihood and income opportunities due to Covid-19, while the closure of schools affected school feeding programmes in several countries. An estimated 38 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the region, and the situation could escalate dramatically. To put this into context, in 2020, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Sudan were among the 10 countries with the worst food crises globally.

We’re fighting to prevent the situation getting worse, but we need your help to save lives

Somalia

Grandmother Saakin Yuuglun has been living in an IDP camp in Somalia for the last 7 years. She is pictured here with her grandchildren. Photo: Gavin Douglas
Grandmother Saakin Yuuglun has been living in an IDP camp in Somalia for the last 7 years. She is pictured here with her grandchildren. Photo: Gavin Douglas

Displacement

In the first half of 2020, Somalia ranked amongst the top five countries in the world with the highest numbers of new displacements. There was an estimated 514,000 new disaster-related displacements (for example, climate-related), and 189,000 new displacements associated with conflict and violence. Overall, flooding displaced almost a million people in 2020 and destroyed essential infrastructure, property and tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land. By the end of 2020, 17% of the population were displaced. [Relief Web]

Hunger

Current context

Concern's response

Kenya

Concern Nurse Beatrice fills detail in the records book at an outreach centre in Kenya. Photo: Jennifer Nolan
Concern Nurse Beatrice fills detail in the records book at an outreach centre in Kenya. Photo: Jennifer Nolan

Hunger

Overall, the food security situation in Kenya in 2021 has worsened. While two consecutive seasons of good rains helped improve food security in rural areas, they were still affected by floods and desert locusts. Urban populations faced particularly high levels of food insecurity due to the economic impact of Covid-19. According to Relief Web, 1.1 million Kenyans in these areas require humanitarian assistance following the loss of their income and livelihoods due to the pandemic.

Moreover, the situation is worse in parts of the drier counties of northern Kenya where drought and lack of food has put a number of families at risk. In the north-east of Kenya and the neighbouring region in Somalia, families are facing an alarming drought situation, with depleted water points (shallow wells, boreholes and water pans), reduced crop production and dried-up pasture.

Concern's response

Sudan

Displacement

Approximately 2.5 million displaced people are settled across Sudan. Of these, 64 percent were initially displaced between 2003 and 2010, at the height of the Darfur crisis; 31 percent were displaced between 2011 and 2017; and 5 percent have been displaced since 2018. All of which are due predominately to conflict and climate-related disasters.

Hunger

Concern's response

Ethiopia

Concern Health Worker Rebekah visits Nyariemi and her eight-month-old son, Parnath, who is being treated for Severe Acute Malnutrition in their home in the Pugnido refugee camp, Ethiopia. Photo: Kieran McConville
Concern Health Worker Rebekah visits Nyariemi and her eight-month-old son, Parnath, who is being treated for Severe Acute Malnutrition in their home in the Pugnido refugee camp, Ethiopia. Photo: Kieran McConville

Displacement

Ethiopia is the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, hosting 795,108 registered refugees and asylum-seekers as of 31 August 2021 [Relief Web]. The overwhelming majority originate from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

Established in 1993, the Pugnido Refugees camp is one of the seven camps in Gambela region hosting South Sudanese refugees who are seeking international protection and asylum in Ethiopia. There are 43,864 people living in the camp including 43,683 South Sudanese refugees.

Hunger

Covid-19

Concern's response

We need to bring attention to the critical needs of those living in the Horn of Africa and the many risks they face. 

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