BY Onome Amuge.
Once again there appears to be crisis on the Horn of Africa and aid agencies are beginning to gather to help. Already, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says it is providing nearly $1.3 billion in additional critical humanitarian and development assistance to help stave off mass starvation and deaths in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia which are part of a region known as the Horn of Africa as many families are yet to fully recover from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the last regional drought in 2017, and the 2011 Somalia famine.
Samantha Power, administrator of the independent agency, while speaking on the funding, explained that an unprecedented drought is pushing millions of people in the region to the brink of starvation. She added that over 18 million people in the region are currently in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, primarily as a result of the drought.
USAID, in a statement, explained that unlike in years past, the recent historic drought and hunger crisis is being exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to record-high figures in the cost of food, fuel, and fertiliser, which is threatening, to drive up world hunger on an unprecedented scale, particularly in the Horn of Africa.
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The agency also disclosed that the region has experienced four consecutive drought seasons and a fifth is forecast for later this year, further extending the suffering of millions across the region who face the threat of starvation.
USAID, therefore, urged other donors to join in scaling up assistance to save lives and alleviate suffering across the region.
“[This] announcement includes a nearly $1.18 billion surge in humanitarian assistance that will allow USAID partners to provide critical aid for millions of people across the region,” the agency stated.
The funding, according to USAID, also includes $90 million, subject to congressional approval, in development assistance for the Horn of Africa region, specifically Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
With this additional funding, USAID said it will invest in activities such as scaling drought-tolerant crops, mitigating post-harvest loss and waste, and supporting social protection and safety nets.
“This surge of assistance builds on USAID’s ongoing efforts to alleviate the suffering of millions of people across the Horn of Africa,” it explained.
USAID also highlighted five major development projects the funding is expected to undertake, including:
Emergency food to respond to the threat of famine through the provision of emergency food, including sorghum – a more readily available grain than hard-to-import wheat, yellow split peas, and vegetable oil for families living in areas where local markets are not open. In addition, cash will be provided for families to purchase food staples from local markets, thereby supporting the local economy.
Nutritional support to prevent and treat child malnutrition – To prevent further loss of life and malnutrition cases, USAID said it will provide community-level screening to support early detection and identification of cases of severe acute malnutrition in children. In detected cases, USAID will supply a specialised peanut-based nutritional supplement to treat malnourished children at mobile outreach clinics in remote areas and at hospitals. It added that Super Cereal Plus, a corn-soya blend food supplement designed to make porridge, will be provided to malnourished women and children for use at home.
Farming and agricultural support to prevent crop and livestock losses -.The USAID funding will provide veterinary services, animal fodder, and supplements to allow animals to continue breeding despite deteriorating conditions, aimed at keeping livestock alive and healthy. The funding is also expected to support livestock destocking to reduce strain on overgrazed land, generate income for herders while making food resources available for communities facing starvation. In addition, the new assistance will provide farmers with seeds, tools, and training in drought-resistant farming methods, water conservation, and climate adaptation to increase crop productivity amid worsening drought conditions.
Urgent health support, clean water to prevent disease outbreaks often prevalent during drought – USAID partners are conducting disease outbreak investigations to identify potential diseases such as cholera and measles, often exacerbated when people’s immune systems are compromised from malnutrition. This, it said, is critical in averting mass deaths among malnourished communities. USAID also disclosed that it has begun deploying mobile health and nutrition teams to provide vaccines and treatment. Considering that the risk for infectious disease increases when water sources are contaminated, USAID said it will provide water, sanitation, and hygiene support in drought-affected areas to include: safe, potable water through water trucking; repaired water boreholes, community wells and distribution systems; materials to test and treat contaminated water; and technical support for community-led experts responsible for managing water and sanitation infrastructure.
Support to protect women and children from higher risk of violence –
USAID said it is providing medical supplies, healthcare, and psychosocial support for survivors of gender-based violence. This support includes specialised training for healthcare staff to mitigate future gender-based violence, alongside the creation of safe spaces and counselling for women and girls with an emphasis on communities displaced by the drought, as well as child protection services and family reunification assistance.