Drought / East Africa / Ethiopia / ILRI / Kenya / Report / Somalia / Vulnerability

Massive livestock deaths in drought-ravaged Horn of Africa increase conflicts and close schools

Drought crisis in the Horn of Africa in July 2011

Food shortages are affecting some 10 million people in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa in July 2011;  Oxfam reports that in some parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, 60 percent or more of the livestock herds have perished (image credit: UNHCR and USAID).

>>> The humanitarian news service IRIN reports yesterday on the severe drought ravaging the arid and semi-arid parts of the Horn of Africa, ‘with massive livestock deaths recorded amid an increase in deadly conflict over resources.

‘Pastoralists depend on livestock for all their basic needs and any losses undermine their economic and food security. Livestock sales are often used to buy grain and lack of milk and meat contribute to high malnutrition levels.

The value of livestock—people’s main assets in many of the worst affected areas—has plummeted and livestock markets have collapsed, so people have much less purchasing power than before. People’s livelihoods have already been decimated, but there is now also a real risk of large-scale loss of life,” warns Oxfam in a 1 July statement, adding that in some parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, at least 60 percent of the herds have perished.

‘The perception that emergency relief often does not appreciate the importance of saving livestock assets in emergencies has prompted the development of initiatives such as the Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS), the equivalent of SPHERE in humanitarian circles. LEGS aims at improving relief programming with communities that rely heavily on livestock for their social and economic well-being.

‘According to a December 2010 International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) report, interventions to support livestock, such as supplementary feeding and commercial destocking (among recommended actions in LEGS), should be implemented before livestock are so weak they die.

‘In the 2008-2009 Kenyan droughts, truckloads of dead and dying heads of livestock were common.

Supplementary feeding needs to target breeding stocks with sufficient time so that they stay healthy,” states the ILRI report. “Conflict resolution to enable pastoralists to move to key grazing areas needs to be done in advance, before large numbers of animals need pasture. Late interventions are costly and unhelpful.”. . .

‘Northern Kenya, Somalia and southern Ethiopia, which are predominantly pastoral regions, are among the areas most affected by the drought. In Somalia, at least 65 percent of the population depends on the livestock sector; because of the effects of the drought, more people are sliding into food hunger and poverty.

‘FSNAU estimates that at least 2.85 million people are facing food insecurity in Somalia, a 19 percent increase from January. In Kenya, the food-insecure population is estimated at 3.5 million. . . .

‘In some areas, pasture, grazing land and migration routes that have traditionally been used in emergencies are no longer available, having been sold off, or allocated for tourism and large-scale agriculture. This has undermined pastoralists’ ability to cope with recurrent drought, notes Oxfam. . . .

‘Conflict- and drought-related displacement has also affected education. At least 10 schools in Isiolo, Samburu and Turkana areas in the north have been closed. . . .

‘With drought known to be an ever-present hazard in the dry lands of East and Central Africa, relief programming should focus on the whole drought cycle, including normal and recovery periods, rather than just alert and emergency, states the ILRI report. This is because “any given area or community is… always in some phase related to current, recent or impending drought”.’

>>> On 3 July 2011, the BBC reported that the UK ‘pledged £38m ($61m) in food aid to drought-hit Ethiopia—enough to feed 1.3m people for three months. . . . The African country faces its worst drought for a decade with an estimated 3.2m people in need of emergency aid. The UN has called for international aid across the Horn of Africa where 10 million people are affected. Some areas have suffered the worst drought in 60 years and the UN now classifies large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as in a crisis or an emergency.’

Read the whole BBC News article: Ethiopia drought: UK pledges £38m in food aid, 3 July 2011.

Read the whole IRIN article: Kenya-Somalia: Drought decimates livestock, hits incomes, 4 July 2011.

Read the ILRI report cited in the IRIN article: Livestock drought management tool: Final report for project OSRO/RAF/915/RFF PR 44865, submitted by ILRI to the FAO Sub-Regional Emergency and Rehabilitation Officer for East and Central Africa, by Polly Ericksen, Jan de Leeuw and Carlos Quiros, ILRI, 10 December 2010.

Read a previous ILRI report on drought: An assessment of the response to the 2008/2009 drought in Kenya: A report to the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kenya, by Lammert Zwaagstra, Zahra Sharif, Ayago Wambile, Jan de Leeuw, Mohamed Said, Nancy Johnson, Jemimah Njuki, Polly Ericksen and Mario Herrero, ILRI, May 2010.

2 thoughts on “Massive livestock deaths in drought-ravaged Horn of Africa increase conflicts and close schools

  1. By August/September 2010 projections for the Nov/Dec rains of that year were known to be poor. The situation was threatening but far from critical at the time and early interventions should and could have been implemented at that time and made a big difference later on. In Kenya, systems were in place and funding was earmarked to do exactly that, amongst others through DMI the EU funded component of the World Bank ALRMP. Cumbersome funding arrangements and poor decision making caused the withholding of some USD 10 million for early response activities at this critical time.
    We are now back to a situation where once again large scale and hugely costly famine relief operations appear the only way out to avoid a disaster. When will those emergency funders and the recipient countries come to their sense and realise that for a fraction of these massive emergency interventions they can save their tax payers serious money and at the same time make the lives of millions of affected people more bearable?

  2. From the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog today (8 July 2011) comes this statement by Alison Rusinow, program director for HelpAge International in Ethiopia:

    ‘Weather predictions showed that this drought was going to be very bad and where it was going to hit. But when HelpAge, and others, tried to get money from the international community to ensure there would be sufficient food, delivered in time to prevent unnecessary suffering, there weren’t enough people streaming across international borders in search of help, and there were no photos of starving babies to provoke a reaction.

    ‘Because of this we were unable to prevent the current tragedy from happening. But we could – and should – have.

    ‘The governments in east Africa need to do more – and do it better – to help prepare for these recurring crises. . . .’

    Read the whole blog post, ‘East Africa crisis could have been averted with early action,’ at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jul/08/east-africa-drought-early-response-prevention

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