Horn of Africa Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #8

August 3, 2017

  • FEWS NET issues alert for food security emergency in Ethiopia’s Somali Region
  • Risk of Famine—IPC 5—levels of acute food insecurity persists in Somalia
  • USG announces an additional $169 million to support humanitarian interventions in Ethiopia and Kenya

The food security and nutrition situation in southeastern Ethiopia is deteriorating, with some households in parts of acutely drought-affected Somali Region experiencing an elevated risk of Catastrophe—IPC 5—levels of acute food insecurity, according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).4 Relief actors—including USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP—are monitoring the evolving food security and nutrition situation and scaling up ongoing humanitarian interventions.

New drought-related displacement in Somalia decreased in May and June as compared to previous months; however, the number of people displaced by conflict and insecurity in central and southern Somalia increased, with nearly 8,300 households—approximately 50,000 people—fleeing conflict during the two-month period, according to the UN.

On August 3, the U.S. Government (USG) announced $169 million in new humanitarian assistance to support relief interventions in Ethiopia and Kenya. The total includes $137 million in funding—including for urgently needed relief food and nutrition assistance—for the Ethiopia response and nearly $33 million in funding—including for emergency food, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance—for the Kenya response. The new funding brings total USG humanitarian assistance for the Horn of Africa region to more than $806 million to date in FY 2017.

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 $299,450,672
USAID/FFP $1,014,964,483
State/PRM $346,392,670
Total $1,660,807,825

FEWS NET expects the food security crisis in the Horn of Africa region to persist through at least early 2018, following the poor performance of March-to-June 2017 seasonal rains. Vulnerable populations in Somalia and southeastern Ethiopia will continue to face Emergency—IPC 4—levels of acute food insecurity through early 2018, with a persistent risk of Famine—IPC 5—in acutely affected areas of Somalia and the risk of Catastrophe—IPC 5—levels among some households in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. Much of the rest of the Horn of Africa will remain at Crisis—IPC 3—levels into early 2018, following drought conditions that have persisted for a year or more in areas of Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. Sustained humanitarian assistance is required to mitigate acute malnutrition levels and the risk of increased morbidity and mortality, FEWS NET reports.

Populations in Somalia continue to face Emergency and Crisis levels of acute food insecurity and require sustained humanitarian assistance through at least December 2017, according to FEWS NET and the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU). Without continued emergency food assistance and an effective response to ongoing disease outbreaks, the risk of Famine persists, particularly in agro-pastoral areas of Bakool and Bay regions. Despite the rapid scale-up of humanitarian assistance in Bakool and Bay since January, many poor, inaccessible households are experiencing Emergency-level food insecurity, although access to food assistance is preventing Crisis-level households from deteriorating to Emergency levels, FEWS NET and FSNAU report. A food security and nutrition assessment following Somalia’s April-to-June gu rains is ongoing, with an updated estimate of the food-insecure population anticipated by late August. FEWS NET and FSNAU do not expect food security in Somalia to improve considerably prior to the January/February 2018 deyr harvest, and the outlook could worsen significantly if the October-to-December deyr rains are below average.

Since November 2016, an estimated 766,000 people in Somalia have been displaced by the effects of drought, as well as humanitarian access constraints in areas controlled by the al-Shabaab armed group, the UN reports. The total includes approximately 28,000 people displaced in June, of whom 16,000 people arrived in Bay’s Baidoa town and 650 people arrived in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu. The two areas account for approximately 45 percent of drought-related internally displaced persons (IDPs) countrywide, with nearly 184,500 IDPs in Bay and approximately 162,000 IDPs in Mogadishu. While UNHCR reports a decline in new drought-related displacement in May and June as compared to previous months, the number of people displaced by conflict and insecurity in central and southern Somalia increased, with nearly 8,300 households—approximately 50,000 people—fleeing conflict during the two-month period. Galgadud, Gedo, and Lower Shabelle regions, as well as Baidoa, have been most affected by recent conflict, which includes inter-clan violence and conflict between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGoS) and the al-Shabaab armed group.

On July 19, the FGoS held the inaugural Country Humanitarian Forum—intended to bolster coordination and information sharing between the FGoS and humanitarian organizations—in Mogadishu. Attendees included representatives from the FGoS, federal member states, the UN, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. During the meeting, participants discussed the current drought response, early recovery activities, and the need for longer-term resilience-building programs.

The FGoS Ministry of Health (MoH) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported approximately 1,070 new suspected cholera cases and three related deaths between July 10 and 16. Of the total, nearly 290 cases—27 percent—were reported from Middle Shabelle Region. The FGoS MoH and WHO report an overall decline in cholera transmission in recent weeks, with decreased transmission in south-central Somalia and Puntland—both previously areas with significant cholera caseloads—between July 3 and 16; however, obtaining accurate data from inaccessible areas of Somalia remains a challenge. Cumulatively, the FGoS MoH, the Somaliland MoH, and WHO recorded more than 71,660 suspected cholera cases and nearly 1,100 related deaths between January and June, with a case fatality rate of approximately 1.5 percent, exceeding the WHO emergency threshold.

As of July 25, health actors had reported nearly 14,000 suspected measles cases in Somalia in 2017, with Banadir, Hiran, Lower Shabelle, Mudug, and Togdheer regions reporting the largest caseloads, according to WHO. While the weekly reported caseload has decreased from the peak of 720 cases during the week of May 22–28, weekly totals have remained higher than 500 cases per week. The 2017 caseload to date is approximately four times higher than the caseload during the same time period in 2016 and has surpassed the total annual caseload—ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 cases—each year since 2014. WHO reports that more than 80 percent of suspected measles cases are children younger than 10 years of age and attributes the high caseload to low vaccination rates, mass displacement due to drought and insecurity, and weakened immunity due to malnutrition. In early 2017, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO, and national authorities vaccinated nearly 600,000 children between 6 months and 10 years of age against measles in hotspot areas, according to WHO. The FGoS, UNICEF, and WHO are seeking $14 million to support a national measles vaccination campaign targeting approximately 4.2 million children, currently scheduled for November. WHO is also training medical staff to improve national measles surveillance and strengthen case management capacity.

On July 19, U.S. Mission to Somalia Ambassador Stephen M. Schwartz and UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) for Somalia Peter de Clercq, accompanied by a USAID/OFDA regional advisor and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Head of Office for Somalia, traveled to Kismayo city in Somalia’s Jubaland State to assess humanitarian needs and monitor the ongoing humanitarian response. The delegation visited the Kismayo General Hospital and the Dalxiska IDP camp and met with Jubaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam, as well as the Jubaland State Drought Committee. The delegation noted renewed pasture and groundwater sources in and around Kismayo as a result of recent gu rains, as well as decreased cholera transmission in the city in recent weeks. However, humanitarian partners continue to report deteriorating nutrition conditions, with above-average admission rates to malnutrition treatment programs. An estimated 2.3 million people in Somalia currently require emergency nutrition assistance, according to the revised 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan.

Through nearly $9 million in FY 2017 assistance, USAID/OFDA is supporting twelve implementing partners to conduct critical nutrition interventions in Somalia. Among these interventions, a USAID/OFDA NGO partner has established eight new outpatient therapeutic program sites to treat acute malnutrition in areas experiencing Emergency levels of acute food insecurity, including parts of Banadir, Galgadud, and Mudug regions. Additionally, mobile medical units managed by the NGO provided outpatient health services to nearly 4,700 IDPs during the month of June.

A food security emergency is ongoing in Somali Region due to severe drought, resulting in significant livestock losses, reduced household food access, and large-scale displacement, according to a July 19 FEWS NET alert. The worst-affected households are experiencing Emergency-level food insecurity, and ongoing disease outbreaks are exacerbating the situation, with FEWS NET rapid assessments indicating high levels of acute malnutrition, excess mortality among children younger than five years of age, and a heavy reliance on relief food assistance, particularly in Somali’s Afder, Dollo, Jarar, and Korahe zones. Relief food distributions by both WFP and the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) have been erratic since mid-May, in part due to resource shortfalls, and FEWS NET predicted that the worst-affected households could experience Catastrophe—IPC 5—levels of acute food insecurity if relief food distributions did not resume by late July. Although WFP is mobilizing the fifth round of relief food assistance, the GoE had not yet approved the operational plan for delivery as of early August. FEWS NET predicts that levels of acute malnutrition and mortality may rise further without the immediate resumption of relief food distributions.

The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team estimates that up to 3.5 million people in Somali will require relief food assistance through December 2017. Of the total, humanitarian actors are targeting at least 1.7 million people with relief food distributions from July through September. Additional assistance is required to reach populations in need through December. The GoE and the UN plan to release a revised 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD), reflecting increased humanitarian needs and related funding requirements, in the coming weeks.

As of July 4, the GoE and donors had provided $357 million toward the $948.6 million requested in the 2017 HRD for humanitarian activities in Ethiopia, according to OCHA. An additional $233 million was carried over from the previous year, bringing the total funding for Ethiopia in 2017 to $590 million. The GoE has pledged $117 million toward the 2017 HRD, but had only committed $12 million as of July 4. With the ongoing drought and increasing needs, the UN reports that additional funding is urgently needed across all sectors, particularly for food, nutrition, and WASH interventions.

USAID recently contributed an additional $137 million in humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia. The total includes more than $24.4 million from USAID/OFDA to support multi-sector interventions, including urgently needed health, nutrition, and WASH assistance, and more than $112 million from USAID/FFP for emergency food and nutrition assistance. Of the new funding, USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP provided approximately $46 million to WFP, including $8 million from USAID/OFDA for the purchase of relief commodities to treat moderate acute malnutrition and $38 million from USAID/FFP to provide relief food and nutrition assistance to an estimated 2 million drought-affected Ethiopians in Somali.

The recent USAID/FFP contribution also includes 110,902 metric tons (MT) of U.S. in-kind food assistance—valued at an estimated $74 million—to the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP), a consortium of NGO implementing partners led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). This contribution, which includes cereals, pulses, and vegetable oil, supports the JEOP in providing relief food assistance to approximately 1.4 million people in Amhara; Oromiya; Somali; Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples; and Tigray regions. In FY 2017 to date, USAID/FFP has provided nearly 265,430 MT of in-kind food assistance—valued at an estimated $154 million—toward the JEOP pipeline.

Poor March-to-May rainfall has contributed to atypically high food assistance needs, particularly in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) counties, FEWS NET reports. Large parts of the country continue to face Crisis-level acute food insecurity, which will likely persist through January 2018 in many areas. Without continued humanitarian assistance, poor households in pastoral areas currently experiencing Crisis-level food insecurity could face deteriorating conditions in the coming months. Due to limited access to vegetation and water, livestock body conditions in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas remain poor, with low milk production and below-average livestock sale prices resulting in decreased household incomes and restricted food access, according to FEWS NET and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Shortages of staple foods, such as maize, and high staple food prices are further exacerbating food insecurity, with June maize prices approximately 44–59 percent higher than five-year averages.

Response actors continue to highlight concerns regarding critically high levels of acute malnutrition in the ASAL counties. In Turkana County, a Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) nutrition survey conducted in June identified global acute malnutrition (GAM) levels ranging from 23.4 percent to 37 percent—significantly higher than the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent. The overall prevalence of acute malnutrition in Turkana increased from 23.8 percent in June 2016 to 31 percent in June 2017, the UN reports. The survey found GAM levels exceeding 30 percent—classified as an Extreme Critical nutrition situation, according to the IPC for Acute Malnutrition—in Turkana’s Kibish, Turkana East, Turkana North, and Turkana South sub-counties. Despite the high levels of acute malnutrition in Turkana, the SMART survey identified crude mortality rates ranging from .45 to 1.18 deaths per 10,000 people per day—below the emergency threshold of two deaths per 10,000 people per day.

USAID/OFDA recently provided an additional $750,000 to UNICEF to support ongoing nutrition interventions in northern Kenya. Since FY 2016, USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP have provided UNICEF with $5.5 million in funding for nutrition prevention and treatment interventions targeting approximately 465,600 children and women.

In addition, USAID/FFP recently provided $7 million to WFP to support a blanket supplementary feeding program targeting approximately 545,000 children and pregnant and lactating women in Marsabit and Turkana counties. The program, which launched in Kibish and Turkana North in early June, is scheduled to extend to Loima, Turkana Central, Turkana East, and Turkana South in the coming weeks.

The Government of Kenya (GoK) and relief agencies continue to conduct humanitarian preparedness activities for Kenya’s general elections, scheduled for August 8. Based on a September 2016 risk assessment, humanitarian actors estimate that potential electoral violence could displace up to 220,000 people and result in 400,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. The GoK has established eight humanitarian hubs in high-risk areas to coordinate preparedness and potential response interventions. To support preparedness and response capacity in Kenya, USAID has provided nearly $8 million to date, including approximately $500,000 from USAID/OFDA to KRCS for prepositioning and delivery of shelter and non-food item kits and $150,000 to World Vision for support to hubs coordination and election preparedness activities. USAID/FFP has also provided approximately $7.25 million to WFP for emergency food assistance in the event of elections-related displacement.

USAID/FFP recently provided an additional $12.5 million to support WFP’s refugee response in Kenya. The recent contribution includes approximately 4,650 MT of U.S. in-kind food assistance—valued at an estimated $5 million—and $7 million for local procurement, cash transfers, and complementary activities.

USAID/FFP recently contributed nearly $750,000 to WFP to support ongoing operations in Djibouti. The recent contribution will provide refugees in the Ali Addeh, Hol Hol, and Markazi refugee camps with cash-based assistance to increase their purchasing power, support local markets, and complement in-kind food distributions from WFP.

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.