Horn of Africa Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #6

June 23, 2017

  • UN and AU host High-Level Partnership Mission to the Horn of Africa in June, garnering increased donor commitments for drought-affected countries
  • Compared to the 2010/2011 drought in East Africa, FEWS NET reports the 2016/2017 drought is more widespread but less severe

From June 8–13, Acting USAID/OFDA Director Carol Chan accompanied a delegation of international donor representatives on a High-Level Partnership Mission to the Horn of Africa region hosted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the African Union (AU) Commission to assess humanitarian needs resulting from the 2016/2017 drought in the region.

Compared to the 2010/2011 drought in East Africa, the 2016/2017 drought is more widespread but less severe, according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). However, FEWS NET projects that some areas of southern Somalia and the southeastern lowlands of Kenya are expected to face significant crop reductions or crop failure during the remainder of 2017.

The Somalia Water and Land Information Management group reports that Somalia’s April-to-June gu rainy season has likely concluded prematurely, following at least three weeks of below-average or no recorded rainfall in large parts of central, northern, and southern Somalia. As a result, gu harvests are expected to be up to 60 percent below average, with populations continuing to face Crisis—IPC 3—and Emergency—IPC 4—levels of acute food insecurity through at least September, according to FEWS NET.

In recent weeks, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE), UN, and relief actors have highlighted the urgent need for increased resources to address anticipated breaks in the country’s relief food assistance and fortified nutrition commodity pipelines, which are projected to begin by July.

Numbers At A Glance

6.7 million

People in Somalia Experiencing Acute Food Insecurity

7.8 million

People in Ethiopia Experiencing Acute Food Insecurity

2.6 million

People in Kenya Experiencing Acute Food Insecurity

3.2 million

People in Somalia Experiencing Crisis or Emergency Levels of Acute Food Insecurity


Somali Refugees in Neighboring Countries

Humanitarian Funding

For the South Sudan Response

USAID/OFDA $264,326,124
USAID/FFP $783,854,854
State/PRM $316,392,670
Total $1,364,573,648

From June 8–13, OCHA and the AU Commission hosted a High-Level Partnership Mission to the Horn of Africa for international donor representatives—including officials from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, as well as USAID/OFDA Director Chan—and private sector stakeholders to highlight continued humanitarian needs resulting from the regional 2016/2017 drought. During the visit, delegates traveled to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia to meet with host country government officials, high-level UN agency international non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, and community members, including internally displaced persons (IDPs). The delegation also met with AU representatives, who emphasized the need to bolster resilience activities in the region based on lessons learned from drought-affected AU member countries.

FEWS NET reports that western Kenya and parts of western Ethiopia will likely experience average to above-average rainfall between July and September, with an increased likelihood of average to above-average rainfall during the October-to-December rainy season across much of the Horn of Africa.

Compared to the 2010/2011 drought in East Africa, the 2016/2017 drought is more widespread but less severe overall. However, FEWS NET projects that southern Somalia and the southeastern lowlands of Kenya will face significant crop yield reductions in the remainder of 2017, with some areas experiencing near-complete crop failure. Additionally, rangeland conditions remain poor in many parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, and will likely deteriorate further due to the below-average March-to-May rains.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued an appeal on June 9, requesting $60.7 million to assist displaced households and host communities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia through December. In addition to more than 739,000 new IDPs in Somalia, drought has internally displaced more than 316,100 people in Ethiopia and at least 41,000 people in Kenya. IOM is targeting an estimated 6 million drought-affected individuals—including IDPs and host communities—with food security, health, livelihoods, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance.

The majority of Somalia received no rainfall from June 1–10—with the exception of Woqooyi Galbeed Region’s Hargeisa District—representing the third consecutive week of below-average or no rainfall, FEWS NET reports. The lack of rainfall in recent weeks is a possible indicator of the end of Somalia’s gu season, according to the Somalia Water and Land Information Management group, led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FEWS NET estimates that the gu harvest will be up to 60 percent below average, resulting in continued Emergency acute food insecurity through at least September, with the highest crop losses expected in Bakool, Bay, Gedo, Hiraan, Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, and Middle Juba regions. Food security is expected to improve slightly in Somalia’s pastoral areas in October, as livestock assets recover and generate milk for household consumption.

Members of the Food Security Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian food security activities, comprising UN agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders—reached more than 2.6 million people in Somalia during May, more than five times the 500,000 people reached in January and approximately 80 percent of the monthly target of 3.3 million people. Large-scale humanitarian assistance has reduced household food consumption gaps and contributed to lower staple food prices, but an elevated risk of Famine—IPC 5—levels of acute food insecurity persists, compounded by high acute malnutrition and high disease burden, FEWS NET reports. Furthermore, humanitarian access constraints have hindered emergency food and safety net activities in parts of Bakool, Bay, Lower Shabelle, Middle Juba, and Middle Shabelle.

On June 8, regional authorities announced plans to clear and secure transit routes in south-central Somalia, with support from the Federal Government of Somalia (FGoS), to facilitate the delivery of emergency assistance to drought-affected people in remote areas. Many roads to Bakool and Bay, in particular, remain blocked by al-Shabaab elements and other armed actors, local media report.

Given persistent insecurity and armed group control in parts of Somalia, USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP have jointly funded a third-party monitoring system to monitor USAID-funded humanitarian programs. With FY 2016 assistance, the implementing partner provides verification that USAID’s humanitarian programs are operating as intended, despite the challenging operational context in Somalia.

The UN reports that internal displacement continues to drive humanitarian and protection needs in Somalia, with approximately 739,000 people displaced due to drought since November 2016. In late May, IOM surveyed 250 IDP sites in Bay’s capital city of Baidoa. Approximately 98 percent of the registered IDP sites reported emergency food assistance as a priority need, while an estimated 64 percent reported relief commodities and 53 percent reported shelter as priority needs. IOM plans to scale up shelter interventions in the coming months and is coordinating with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the FGoS to develop a camp coordination and camp management strategy to facilitate improved access to services in IDP sites across Somalia.

As of June 11, the FGoS Ministry of Health (MoH) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) had recorded at least 63,700 suspected cholera cases and more than 1,000 related deaths since January; the caseload includes data from the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland’s MoH and may include some duplication from disputed territories of Somalia. Health actors remain particularly concerned about southeastern Banadir Region, where Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu is located and 460 cholera cases and 11 related deaths were recorded from June 5–11 alone. The Health Cluster convened an emergency coordination meeting in Mogadishu on June 12 to discuss the cholera outbreak in Banadir and develop an action plan. In the coming weeks, health and WASH actors plan to establish additional cholera treatment facilities, scale up health promotion campaigns, expand case identification and referral services, and improve treatment of water sources at the community and households levels.

Although WASH Cluster partners have significantly increased the number of beneficiaries reached in Somalia since January, the conclusion of several short-term projects and lack of funds to extend them resulted in a decrease in the number of people reached in May, as compared to April. In May, the cluster reached 40 percent fewer beneficiaries with hygiene activities, 39 percent fewer with new sustained water access projects, 33 percent fewer with temporary water supplies, and 14 percent fewer with access to new safe sanitation facilities. While meeting immediate needs through activities such as water trucking and construction of emergency latrines is critical, the cluster is also advocating for sustained interventions, including improvements to existing water sources and greater sanitation and hygiene promotion, particularly in cholera-affected areas. To date in FY 2017, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $17.6 million to 14 implementing partners to support WASH interventions in Somalia.

A USAID partner is delivering cash transfers and emergency livelihoods support to approximately 236,000 people experiencing Crisis and Emergency levels of acute food insecurity. The assistance—which prioritizes acutely drought-affected areas, especially Bakool and Bay—includes USAID/FFP-supported cash transfers to enable people to purchase food from local markets and USAID/OFDA-supported agricultural inputs, such as seeds, to bolster agricultural production. The partner anticipates that the agricultural assistance will enable participants to produce nearly 33,800 metric tons (MT) of sorghum, sufficient to feed more than 84,000 households for six months.

In recent weeks, the GoE National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC), UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, and other relief actors have highlighted the urgent need for resources to address anticipated breaks in the country’s relief food assistance and fortified nutrition commodity pipelines. The UN projects that existing commodity stocks for general food assistance and targeted acute malnutrition treatment will be depleted by July. In response, the UN has called for approximately $500 million in additional funding to procure and transport food assistance for approximately 7.8 million people in need, in addition to $55 million to support treatment of an estimated 3 million acute malnutrition cases through December. The UN has also called for procurement of additional ready-to-use-food (RUTF) for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) treatment, given that anticipated relief food and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) commodity shortfalls will likely increase the number of SAM cases.

Relief food actors, including the NDRMC, WFP, and the USAID-supported, Catholic Relief Services-led Joint Emergency Operation (CRS/JEOP), had supported more than 5.2 million food-insecure Ethiopians through monthly relief food distributions as of May 15. Additionally, WFP’s MAM treatment program supported more than 506,000 children and 469,500 pregnant and lactating women from January to May, primarily in drought-affected, pastoral areas of Somali and Afar regions and southern parts of Oromiya and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) regions.

To date in FY 2017, USAID/FFP has contributed 36,650 MT of U.S. in-kind food assistance, valued at an estimated $30 million, to WFP to support refugees in Ethiopia. The contributions, which include cereals, pulses, fortified vegetable oil, and supplementary nutritious foods, support general food rations and both targeted and blanket supplementary feeding programs to prevent an increase in acute malnutrition among children younger than five years of age. WFP expects that resource shortfalls could result in a 37 percent reduction in cereal supplies by July.

Relief agencies remain particularly concerned about elevated SAM levels in Somali and SNNP, where admissions of SAM patients into therapeutic feeding programs have increased by 125 percent and 20 percent, respectively, since April 2016, according to the Nutrition Cluster.

As of June 16, health workers had recorded nearly 35,700 cases of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) and 780 related deaths across six of Ethiopia’s 11 regions since January, with a countrywide case fatality rate of 2.2 percent—exceeding the WHO emergency threshold of 1 percent. Somali accounts for more than 91 percent of AWD cases and 96 percent of related deaths, according to the UN. However, between early April and late May, the number of weekly AWD cases reported declined by 88 percent, the UN reports.

The need for emergency water trucking in Ethiopia has declined by approximately 40 percent in recent weeks due to increased rainfall; however, approximately 2.7 million people across nearly 200 districts, primarily in Oromiya and Somali, will continue to require water trucking services through December, the WASH Cluster reports. Between January and May, cluster partners reached more than 2.6 million drought-affected people with water trucking interventions. As of mid-June, approximately 84 percent of the estimated 250 IDP sites in Somali lacked adequate sanitation infrastructure. The UN and GoE are requesting $33 million to address prioritized WASH needs, including AWD prevention and WASH support to health facilities, through December.

USAID/OFDA supports multiple implementing partners to provide multi-sector assistance, including critical nutrition support, in acutely drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, including Oromiya, SNNP, and Somali. For example, with $2 million in FY 2017 USAID/OFDA assistance, International Medical Corps (IMC) is training community health workers and GoE MoH health extension workers to improve early detection of common diseases; supporting MoH-managed outpatient therapeutic feeding programs; and conducting emergency water trucking and rehabilitating emergency water supply infrastructure in priority areas of Oromiya and SNNP. In addition, with more than $4.2 million in FY 2016 USAID/OFDA assistance, Mercy Corps is bolstering community management of acute malnutrition and promoting safe hygiene practices in Somali.

Since 2006, the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund (EHF)—a country-based pooled fund managed by OCHA—has provided a timely and flexible financing mechanism to support UN agencies and NGOs responding to humanitarian crises and drought conditions in Ethiopia. To date in 2017, the EHF has allocated $31.6 million to 21 relief partners for agriculture, health, nutrition, protection, and WASH activities, with the majority of interventions—55 percent—implemented in Somali. USAID/OFDA recently provided an additional $7.5 million in FY 2017 assistance to the EHF to supplement a prior contribution of $6 million, alongside other donor contributions from Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The ongoing fall armyworm infestation in Ethiopia had affected approximately 355,000 acres of land in Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Oromiya, SNNP, and Tigray regions as of June 15, according to the GoE and FAO. In response, the GoE has deployed technical experts to affected areas to manage the infestation, including use of pesticides; outreach campaigns to raise awareness and train farmers on techniques to protect crops; and support for fall armyworm eradication in affected areas. As of May 30, farmers had sprayed more than 113,600 acres of maize fields with pesticides, and relief actors had collected fall armyworm larvae from approximately 31,100 acres of land.

The Government of Kenya (GoK) reports that March-to-May long rains have ceased over most parts of Kenya, with the exception of coastal and western areas and some parts of the central highlands. Most areas recorded rainfall totals less than 75 percent of seasonal averages; however, coastal areas, the Lake Victoria Basin, and parts of central Rift Valley—including Nakuru County and Laikipia County’s Nyahururu town—will likely receive near-normal to above-normal rainfall between July and August, while other parts of the country will remain dry, in keeping with seasonal patterns, according to the GoK.

Crop production in Kenya’s marginal agricultural areas is likely to be below average due to poor long rains and the ongoing fall armyworm infestation. The number of households experiencing Crisis-level acute food insecurity in these areas is expected to increase during the August-to-October lean season, FEWS NET reports. In addition, the number of vulnerable pastoral households experiencing Crisis levels of food insecurity will likely increase by late June due to poor water availability and deteriorated pasture conditions. However, FEWS NET estimates that ongoing humanitarian assistance is preventing food security outcomes from worsening, particularly in Turkana County.

USAID/FFP partner WFP provided emergency food assistance to approximately 370,000 people in Kenya in March and April. WFP plans to continue providing emergency food assistance through at least June to help address drought-related humanitarian needs, while also increasing the value of household cash transfers to stabilize food prices and prevent deterioration of food security levels. In northern Kenya’s Marsabit and Turkana counties, WFP began providing nutrition supplements in mid-May to support acutely malnourished populations and prevent deterioration of nutrition conditions among vulnerable children and pregnant and lactating women. Acute malnutrition prevalence in Turkana’s Kibish and Turkana North sub-counties and Marsabit’s North Horr sub-county is critical, with global acute malnutrition levels exceeding 30 percent—at least twice the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent.

On June 18, the Government of the UK announced £60 million—approximately $77 million—in additional humanitarian assistance for drought relief and famine prevention in Somalia, as well as £30 million—nearly $38 million—for drought response in Ethiopia. Following a visit to Somalia, UK Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel announced the new funding, which is in addition to an estimated $126 million provided for the Somalia response earlier in 2017.

During the High-Level Partnership Mission in June, the AU announced an immediate contribution of $100,000 for Somalia, while the Government of South Africa pledged approximately $780,000 for the drought-affected country. The World Bank also announced a $50 million contribution to scale up livelihoods and resilience initiatives in Somalia. Finally, the Government of Qatar pledged $10 million in humanitarian assistance for Somalia and $3 million for Ethiopia.

On June 16, the African Development Bank announced that it would work through partners to accelerate the implementation of the Drought Resilience Sustainable Livelihood Support Program in the Horn of Africa, launched in 2013. The new support includes $1.1 billion to combat food insecurity and malnutrition in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda.

The Government of Australia announced $19.3 million in humanitarian assistance to support emergency food, health care, and WASH activities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Uganda on May 29. In Kenya, the new assistance will enable the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to address the food and water needs of drought-affected refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring countries. The assistance is also intended to supplement the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)—a pooled humanitarian fund established and managed by the UN to support sudden-onset and underfunded emergencies.

Recurrent natural disasters and ongoing complex emergencies remain major contributors to vulnerability across the Horn of Africa, negatively affecting the lives and livelihoods of populations across the region. Somalia has experienced a persistent complex emergency since 1991 due to chronic food insecurity, widespread violence, and recurring droughts and floods. The 2011 drought severely reduced food security among Somali pastoralists and populations in marginal farming areas, resulting in Famine levels of food insecurity in areas of Bakool, Bay, Lower Shabelle, and Middle Shabelle regions, as well as among IDPs in Mogadishu and the nearby Afgooye corridor.

Despite modest improvements in recent years, malnutrition rates in Somalia remain among the highest in the world, and ongoing insecurity in the country—particularly in areas that lack established local authorities and where al-Shabaab is present—contributes to the complex emergency. Sustained life-saving assistance, coupled with interventions aimed at building resilience, is critical to help vulnerable households meet basic needs, reduce malnutrition, and protect livelihoods. An estimated 6.7 million people require humanitarian assistance between January and December 2017.

Since the Horn of Africa drought crisis of 2011, USAID has scaled up efforts to build resilience in drought prone areas, and the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya are leading current response efforts in their respective countries, with support from the USG, other donors, and relief actors.

Multiple consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall and the effects of the 2015/2016 El Niño climatic event resulted in deteriorating agricultural, livestock, food security, and nutrition conditions in northeastern and central Ethiopia. By December 2015, the GoE estimated that 10.2 million people required relief food assistance and other humanitarian interventions during 2016, in addition to nearly 8 million chronically food-insecure people requiring Productive Safety Net Program support.

In response to the drought in Ethiopia, USAID activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and Washington, D.C.,-based Response Management Team (RMT) in March 2016; the DART and RMT stood down in November 2016 as humanitarian conditions improved. In April 2017, the GoE estimated that 7.8 million people will require humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia through December, primarily due to newer drought-related needs in southern and southeastern parts of the country.

In addition to drought, populations across Ethiopia confront other challenges—including seasonal flooding, localized intercommunal conflict, above-average food prices, disease outbreaks, and limited access to health and WASH services—that contribute to sustained humanitarian needs and an ongoing complex emergency.

In Kenya, drought conditions have exacerbated chronic stressors, including food insecurity and malnutrition. Through ongoing FY 2015 and 2016 programs, USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP are supporting efforts to strengthen health and nutrition systems in drought-affected areas in coordination with USAID/Kenya resilience initiatives to mitigate the effects of recurrent natural hazards.

On October 6, 2016, U.S. Ambassador Stephen M. Schwartz renewed the disaster declaration for the complex emergency in Somalia for FY 2017. On March 28, 2017, Ambassador Schwartz declared a separate disaster due to drought and food insecurity in Somalia for FY 2017.

On October 18, 2016, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Peter H. Vrooman redeclared a disaster for Ethiopia in FY 2017 in response to the ongoing complex emergency.

On February 17, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Robert F. Godec declared a disaster for Kenya due to the effects of drought and increasing food insecurity and malnutrition.