With “crisis atop of crisis” threatening millions in the Horn of Africa, the international community cannot afford to stand idly by, Secretary-General António Guterres said at a pledging event to raise $7 billion for the region, held at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday.
More than 43 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia continue to suffer through one of the worst droughts in recent history, caused by five consecutive seasons of poor rains.
Years of conflict and insecurity have sparked mass displacement, while skyrocketing food prices and most recently, the fighting in Sudan, have compounded the situation.
Appeal for action
“We must act now to prevent crisis from turning into catastrophe,” Mr. Guterres said. “Let us act together now – with greater urgency and far greater support.”
The pledging event was convened by the UN and Italy, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United States, in collaboration with the three affected countries.
Mr. Guterres said he saw the devastating impact of the drought first-hand during recent visits to Kenya and Somalia.
Families search for food
“In parts of northern Kenya, parched landscapes and perished livestock have driven families from their homes in search of water, food, and incomes,” he said.
While in the Somali city of Baidoa, he met communities who lost their livelihoods to drought and insecurity, as the battle against Al-Shabaab militants continues.
“I was deeply moved by their struggles. And I was inspired by their resilience, courage, and determination to rebuild their lives. But they cannot do it alone,” he said.
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Step up support
The UN chief assured that “action will make all the difference.” Last year, donors delivered life-saving assistance to 20 million people and helped avert a famine.
He called for increased support for humanitarian plans for the region which are currently less than 20 per cent funded.
This is “unacceptable”, he said, warning that without an immediate financial injection, “emergency operations will grind to a halt, and people will die.”
Build climate resilience
He said the drought in Somalia last year claimed 40,000 lives, and half were children under five, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Although recent rains have brought some relief, vulnerable communities are still facing another year of immense hardship.
“People in the Horn of Africa are paying an unconscionable price for a climate crisis they did nothing to cause,” he said.
“We owe them solidarity. We owe them assistance. And we owe them a measure of hope for the future. This means immediate action to secure their survival. And it means sustained action to help communities across the Horn adapt and build resilience to climate change.”