The Horn of Africa: UNICEF’s Efforts to Counter Drought and Famine

By: The UNICEF Club

The Horn of Africa is facing the longest and most severe drought on record. The drought and its resulting famine have killed and displaced millions of people, and it continues to threaten the lives of many more. 20.2M children across Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Eritrea have lost access to basic needs such as food, water, healthcare and education, displacing thousands of families and leading to widespread malnutrition. 

This drought is the worst of its kind to surface in 40 years. Usually, a drought would start with a lack of rain for two seasons; however, there has not been any rain in four seasons. This has caused the soil to degrade, making it unfit for farming and vegetation growth. The lack of vegetation in large areas impacts not only humans but all life in the Horn of Africa. 

Drought cycles are naturally caused by geophysical phenomena. Unfortunately, emissions of greenhouse gasses from human activities have led to severe droughts amplified by global warming. Droughts in Africa cause wildfires that send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, worsening the world’s climate. Rising ocean temperatures have led to more extreme variations in weather, causing increased precipitation. Rainfalls are short but extreme, making it difficult for the soil to retain water. This results in eroded soil due to rainfall runoff and widespread forest loss.

Image Source: UNICEF

Droughts have impacted Africa for centuries, but some of the most severe droughts in recent memory have happened in the Horn of Africa. This area comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia and is neighboured by countries such as Kenya and Sudan. Three major droughts have hit the region in the past ten years, devastating the land and living conditions. Unfortunately, many African countries lack the resources to adequately combat these droughts, largely due to a complicated history. The Horn of Africa has been mired in instability for many years. Historically, Ethiopia has dominated this area, and struggles between Muslim and Christian farmers for living space and land were prevalent. In the 20th century, countries such as Italy, France and Britain set their sights on parts of the Horn of Africa, leading to increased instability. Dictatorships in Eritrea and Djibouti have also caused unstable governments. Perhaps the most significant challenge has come in Somalia, which entered a civil war in 1991 and is dealing with corruption to this day. These factors have made it difficult for the countries to deal with the droughts independently, which is why organizations such as UNICEF must help. 

UNICEF stands for the United Nations Children’s Fund. Founded by the United Nations, UNICEF is a non-profit organization that strives to improve children’s welfare worldwide, providing critical services like healthcare and hygiene and advocating for children’s rights, such as education and security. Today, UNICEF operates in over 190 countries, supporting millions of children worldwide.

In response to the drought crisis, UNICEF and its partners have mounted a multisectoral operation across the region. UNICEF is increasing access to crucial lifesaving supplies and working with other contributors to increase essential services. Specifically, they are improving the water system by drilling boreholes and performing urgent repairs. Furthermore, they ensure that children remain in school and enrich their access to learning through various opportunities. Additionally, they are increasing access to vaccines and medical facilities for children and women. The required funding for the immediate drought response is 986 million US dollars.

The best way to help UNICEF counter the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa is to donate through the UNICEF Website. Every dollar counts. We can also help by raising awareness for the current situation in the Horn of Africa, as this issue does not currently have the attention it deserves. Increased awareness of the issue can lead to increased support and alleviate the suffering of millions of people.

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