Deputy Assistant Secretary Don Yamamoto for Bureau of African Affairs today reported that more than 12 million people in eastern Horn of Africa-mainly in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia-are severely affected by drought and in need of humanitarian assistance.
“The eastern Horn of Africa is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts since the 1950s. In Somalia, drought conditions have exacerbated a complex emergency that has continued since 1991. The information coming out of the Horn of Africa, especially the dire situation of refugees from Somalia, is devastating.” -Mr. Yamamoto
He highlighted that in cooperation with United States’ international and regional partners, the U.S. Government will continue to work to address the humanitarian crisis while continuing to support long-term political and food security in the region.
He reported that Somalia is at the center of the crisis, but the crisis is affecting the entire Horn of Africa. He stated that Ethiopia has issued an appeal indicating 4.5 million Ethiopians need food assistance. In Kenya, the government and a consortium of NGOs have placed 10 districts in the north and east under alert for increased food insecurity and malnutrition.
“The crisis has hit hardest in Somalia, where failed or poor rains combined with conflict have left 3.7 million people in need of immediate, lifesaving assistance.” -Mr. Yamamoto
According to Mr. Yamamoto, two areas of southern Somalia, the Lower Shabelle Region and areas of the Bakool region, are currently facing famine conditions, and the remaining regions of southern Somalia are projected to meet the threshold for famine unless humanitarian assistance is significantly increased.
“The number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the region has increased the challenges of drought response. There are approximately 620,000 Somali refugees in the eastern Horn region, according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with 200,000 of these fleeing in the past year alone.” -Mr. Yamamoto
He stressed that reports from inside Somalia indicate the combined arrival rate of 2,000 new refugees per day in Ethiopia and Kenya could rise dramatically as the situation in Somalia grows increasingly desperate. He added the current flows threaten to overwhelm the existing refugee assistance structure in Kenya and Ethiopia.
“Moreover, there are reports of over 400,000 IDPs in Mogadishu alone. A large-scale multidonor intervention-my colleagues will go into greater depth on this-is underway to prevent the further decline of an already dire situation, but there will be no quick fix.” -Mr. Yamamoto
Mr. Yamamoto underscored that the United States is one of the largest donors of emergency assistance to the region, helping more than 4.5 million of those in need in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti and providing nearly $459 million in humanitarian assistance to date. He emphasized that the U.S. assistance includes food, treatment for severely malnourished people, health care, clean water, proper sanitation, and hygiene education and supplies.
“Our assistance also includes $69 million for refugee assistance in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. The U.S. Government has previously supported the expansion of the Dadaab camps, and we understand that the Government of Kenya has agreed to allow new refugees to begin occupying the new areas.” -Mr. Yamamoto