We, the leadership of Non-Governmental organisations, including those working for development, humanitarian and faith-based organizations, have gathered here to express our profound concern regarding the forgotten humanitarian crisis engulfing the Horn of African countries, which is building to be a shameful blot in the recorded history of human civilisation.
We shout out, and blow the horn as we join the desperately unheeded voices of those who have come out to denounce a lack of full commitment by the world leaders to cooperate and end the spiraling hunger crisis. It is outrageous that in a world where there is enough to feed everyone, people are still dying of hunger and hundreds of millions are on the brink of famine despite promises to never again give famine a chance in this century. It is now imminent in Somalia.
We take the attitude of the world leaders to demonstrate that the livelihoods and dignity of the people of the Horn of Africa matters less than race and endless bickering among global capitalist powers on who should control the levers of technological and economic advancement.
There have been several unheeded calls, but leaders have failed to lead. In late August, 44 Anglican Bishops from South Sudan and Kenya issued an open letter to the UK Government appealing for urgent intervention in what they termed as the worst drought in 40 years, expressing fears that “early warnings were not heeded” and that “existing commitments to strengthen resilience have not been backed up by funding that is so desperately needed.”
Expressing our solidarity with the Anglican and Catholic Bishops, we are constrained by words to express the distress with which lactating mothers, the elderly, the disabled and children are finding themselves due to the phenomenon that is not accidental, nor instant. We are staring at a devastating climate-fuelled catastrophe of immeasurable proportions which has been building over years, while not enough action has been taken following the early warnings of the imminent humanitarian disaster projected by climate change experts and civil society.
Due to prolonged drought, farmers have been unable to harvest their crops for five consecutive seasons. Pastoralist communities have lost much of their livestock, including camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Alarming in the Horn of Africa is that, at least 36.1 million people have now been affected by the drought which began in October 2020. This figure represents a significant increase from July 2022 when an estimated 19.4 million people were affected, reflecting the impact of the climate change-motivated drought in the region.
This figure represents a significant growth in climate and humanitarian vulnerability of communities across the three states as 24.1 million people in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia and 4.2 million in Kenya are pushed to the edge of access to food and water. Across the three States, a minimum of 20.5 million people are already waking each day to high levels of acute food insecurity and rising malnutrition. According to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, this figure could rise to between 23 and 26 million by February 2023.
This, to call it what it is, is the manifestation of failure to build resilient nations in the face of a climate crisis that demands political will and urgent decisive actions and the characterisation of loss and damage, at the center of discussion in the ongoing global policy discourse on climate change. The loss and damage as a result of the rapidly changing and more intense weather events such as the Horn of Africa drought crisis forms the basis for Africa’s key priority issues during the “African COP 27” in Egypt later in November this year.
We are alarmed by the high levels of malnutrition, also affecting young people whose plight is oftentimes forgotten. About 4.6 million children and 986,100 pregnant and lactating women in the region are acutely malnourished in the drought-affected areas. A total of 1.3 million children are acutely malnourished and so far hundreds have died in nutrition centres. More than 16.2 million people cannot access enough water for drinking, cooking and cleaning , including 8.2 million in Ethiopia, 3.9 million in Somalia and 4.1 million in Kenya. Many water points have dried up or diminished in quality, heightening the risk of water-borne diseases and increasing the risk of skin and eye infections as families are forced to ration their water use and prioritize drinking and cooking over hygiene.
Rivers and water pans where farmers were drawing water and livestock owners were watering their animals have all dried up. Farmers were fighting with livestock owners over watering points and grazing areas. But now, there is even nothing to fight over – water points have dried up, while the remaining grazing areas have vanished. Over 8.9 million livestock have perished — which pastoralist families rely upon for sustenance and livelihoods, including 3.5 million in Ethiopia, 2.4 million in Kenya and over 3 million in Somalia. As a result communities have been forced to migrate to other communities territories triggering climate motivated insecurities.
The crisis has heightened protection risks for women and children, particularly girls who have become more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, abuse, sexual exploitation , and child labour. Female-headedhouseholds and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to increased violence, exploitation and abuse. The number of children dropping out of school is rising with reports of girls being married off by their struggling families surfacing in all the affected countries. Child, early and forced marriages are being used as a negative coping mechanism to lessen demands on family resources and potentially get money that they can use to buy food and other necessities. In Somalia, the drought emergency has disrupted education for 1.7 million children, of whom 720,000, 47 per cent of them girls, are at risk of dropping out of school. In Ethiopia, more than 401,000 children are out of school due to drought.
These are not isolated climate-change-induced drought occurrences! In the past 10 years, the Horn of Africa has endured three severe climate-triggered droughts (2010-2011, 2016-2017 and 2020-2022). Efforts in building resilience to climate change in the region have not kept pace with the frequency, prolonged and severity of droughts in recent years, making it harder for families to recover between shocks. The increasing frequency of shocks in the region has eroded inherent capacities in communities to adapt while leaving vulnerable communities too short a time to recover and bounce back.
Not that we didn’t see this coming, sadly.
Scientists have repeatedly warned of insufficient rainfall and prolonged drought, mostly attributed to the changing climate. The meteorological agencies have accurately predicted that rainfall would not be enough.
We are saddened to see the results of this inaction despite numerous warnings, and yet global leaders continue to drag their feet when it comes to honoring climate financing pledges. This is happening at a time when the Green Climate Fund, the body which we expected to ease bureaucracy associated with the World Bank and other financial institutions, has turned out to be another nightmare in disbursing money meant for emergencies like the one witnessed in the Horn of Africa. For a multilateral institution that was meant to be easily accessible, and quicker in response, it has been painfully slow for organisations to access the funds to ensure urgent adaptation interventions.
The people from the horn of Africa can apply for funds and die, become forgotten and their next generation will wait long to receive the money, which is meant for urgent adaptation intervention.
To complicate matters for the Horn of African communities experiencing a deadly crisis is the worrying control mechanisms of UNFCCC and its processes by transnational corporations which seem to value profit over life, leading to failure in honoring commitments to pool resources that can support most vulnerable countries to adapt and to strengthen their resilience to climatic shocks.
A. Towards addressing the humanitarian crisis:
1. Horn of Africa governments:
The humanitarian crisis must be responded to at the urgently needed speed and scale. All available funding for humanitarian and development pipelines should be released to the frontline immediately;
a. Provide leadership and pay attention to the crisis while investing in creating evidence to inform long-term interventions considering the impact of hunger on various groups of people, such as children, adolescents, women and people with disabilities. Suspend all other development priorities and divert the national budget and human resources. Immediately, national budgets should prioritise providing food and nutrition assistance, water for domestic use as well as nutrition gardens supported through expanding drilling and rehabilitation of boreholes; and increasing protection services for prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse.
b. Ensure transparency and accountability in the distribution of relief assistance, and support humanitarian organizations for relief distribution.
c. Ensure all relief assistance and distribution efforts are conflict sensitive, gender responsive and inclusive
d. Lay out long-term adaptation and resilient and recovery strategies, including diversification of livelihood options of communities, such as smallholder irrigation systems, promoting off-farm income generating activities (SMEs), livestock restocking, etc
2. GCF, Adaptation Fund and other climate change-related funds: Prioritise the emergency response in the Horn of Africa to address drought, food, water, disease outbreaks and the survival needs of children, women and communities facing the crisis.
3. Multilateral and bilateral Donors: to make available resources to local, national and international organizations to protect and assist those affected and staring at famine in East and Horn of Africa countries
4. To strengthen efforts by the Horn of Africa governments to save lives now, and give a lifeline to millions on the frontline of the hunger crisis, the G7, G20, IMF, World Bank and all private creditors should suspend all debt repayments due in 2022 and 2023, and the same invested to responding to the worsening humanitarian crisis. Prioritisation of distribution of funds should be reviewed to stop hunger-related loss of lives every minute and to ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, including women, girls, the elderly and the sick. Interventions such as school meals must be expanded to ensure all children remain in school, and girls are protected from all harmful practices including early, child and forced marriages, sexual and gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation..
B. In linking long term resilience building and climate change, we call on fast-tracking climate actions:
1. Urgent call on governments and regional bodies leadership in implementing national and regional and national climate change and the recently approved Africa Union Climate Change Response Strategy and Action Plan 2022 – 2032.
2. Call on the UNFCCC and the COP Presidency to put Adaptation on top of the agenda at COP27. In this regard, the Glasgow-Sharm-El-Sheikh work programme on Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) must be operationalised to elaborate on the GGA by COP28, with COP27 delivering an ambitious plan on how to meet the current and future needs for adaptation finance in Africa by 2025 and beyond.
3. COP27 must move from rhetoric to demonstrable action by ensuring the target of 50:50 split between mitigation and adaptation finance is not only met but surpassed in favour of adaptation. Additionally, climate finance for adaptation must be delivered to African countries through grants and must be new and additional to Official Development Assistance (ODA), based on their needs and special circumstances. Financing modalities must be redesigned to give support to those who are directly impacted by climate change – affected communities and their organization.
4. Call on global communities in COP27 convening to ensure the amount of climate finance reaching local communities is urgently increased and barriers to accessing climate finance are removed. Investment in local climate action must be guided by the principles for locally led adaptation and should be formally endorsed by all Parties to the UNFCCC, including GCF. A new goal for the proportion of climate finance going to local level actions should be considered at COP27.
5. As an imperative of climate justice, that a shared global responsibility for loss and damage be expressed proportionally through a Loss and Damage Fund that channels financial support to those who need it most in Africa. As such, we demand that, as a basic minimum, institutional mechanisms for addressing Loss and Damage financing MUST be resolved in COP 27.
6. Urge Africa Group of negotiators and governments to pursue climate finance definitions that are friendly to the continent for tabling at COP 27, to enhance additional financing for adaptation and loss and damage, with a quantifiable goal by 2024.
7. It calls upon all parties to consider the role and capacity of the Civil Society Organizations in loss and damage response and fast track mechanisms for easing access to climate finance to CSOs.
SIGNED BY (Organizations):
1. ActionAid International Kenya (AAIK)
2. Action Against Hunger (AAH)
3. ADRA Kenya
4. African Youth Commission
5. All Africa Conferences of Churches (AACC)
7. ASAL Humanitarian Network (AHN)
9. Catholic Relief Services
10. Christain Aid
12. Hellen Keller Foundation
14. Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
15. Plan International
16. International Aid Services Kenya
17. International Alert
18. Mediecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
20. SOS Childrens’ Home
21. Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO)
22. World Resources Institute (WRI)