Lessons From Africa Drought Response: How to Prevent Future Crises?

A Somali woman hands her malnourished child to a medical officer with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Somalia is one of the countries affected by the drought in East Africa. Photo by: Stuart Price / UN

As the international emergency response to the East African drought ramps up, top aid officials stress the need for longer-term initiatives geared toward preventing future crises in the region.

Short-term relief efforts are necessary but not sufficient to address the roots of the ongoing crisis, U.S. Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah said in an interview with the Huffington Post, where he stressed the need to help drought-affected countries to develop their agricultural systems.

Valerie Amos, the top U.N. aid official, also stressed the need to build the region’s resilience against future crisis, with a focus on developing sustainable agriculture systems as well as addressing factors such as insecurity, climate change, and over-utilization of land. She said there is a long-term action plan in place to accomplish this, but funding is needed to fully implement it.

“While responding to this current emergency, we also need to look at underlying causes,” Valerie Amos, the top U.N. aid official said, as quoted by the Huffington Post. “Clearly for the longer term, continued funding for development is required.”

Current needs, challenges

Aid groups implementing emergency relief efforts in East Africa are also asking for more funds for their operations in the region. The World Food Program, UNICEF and the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees are reporting funding shortfalls and have issued new aid appeals to support their work in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

A spokesperson for UNHCR said the agency requires the funds to address the most urgent needs in the region, which include nutritious food, clean water, sanitation supplies, health workers and tent materials for refugee camps, which are already stretched beyond their full capacities.

In Somalia, one of the hardest-hit by the drought, security is an additional concern for relief groups and drought victims. The WFP and several other aid agencies have pulled out of some Somali regions because of insecurity there, as well as intimidation from the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

The WFP, however, said it is considering returning to southern Somalia after al-Shabaab lifted its ban on aid groups from areas it controls. Meantime, UNICEF has also airlifted humanitarian aid to southern Somalia after the ban was lifted.

>> Crisis Prevention & the Meaning of Independence

>> Here We Go Again: Famine in the Horn of Africa

>> UN Agencies Issue East Africa Aid Appeal

>> WFP Mulls Returning to Southern Somalia

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.