Dire Straits: The Horn of Africa faces Deepening Crises : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 25/01/2023

Relevance: GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Key Phrases: Horn of Africa (HOA), African Union (AU), Global Hunger Index, water-borne diseases, Flash Appeal, conflict mediation, Agricultural Organisation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), international community.

Why in News?

  • The Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in more than four decades. Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea have each experienced five failed rainy seasons consecutively.
  • At a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the United States (US)-China great power competition is grabbing most of the limelight in mainstream media, the shocking reality of the unfolding food and health crisis in the Horn of Africa (HOA) continues to be overlooked.

Key Highlights:

  • The United Nations (UN) estimates that more than 37 million people in the Horn are facing acute hunger.
  • Nearly 7 million children under the age of five are malnourished in the region.
  • The Global Hunger Index estimates that nearly 52 million, 3.5 million, and 1.8 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, respectively, are finding it difficult to access food. Subsequently, it comes as no surprise that African countries are attempting to strengthen resilience in nutrition and food security across the continent.
  • This is why the year 2022 was declared as the Year of Nutrition by the African Union (AU).
  • The health situation is indeed worrisome with numerous outbreaks threatening the lives of already fragile populations.

Key Challenges:

  1. History of food insecurity
    • The HOA region has a history of food insecurity. In the last decade, the region entered a food crisis twice, once in 2011 and again in 2017-18.
  2. Death of livestocks
    • More than 9.5 million livestock, on whom pastoralist communities depend for sustenance and livelihood, have died across the region.
    • This poses an existential threat to such communities, as it may take years for pastoralist families to rebuild their herds after such long spells of drought.
  3. Getting access to water
    • Many water points are drying up or are diminishing in quality, which heightens the risks of water-borne diseases and infections.
    • Diseases like cholera and measles are on the rise, further impacting fragile and overburdened health systems.
  4. Rising fuel and food prices
    • Rising fuel and food prices, inflation, financial instability, and declining currencies relative to the dollar are disrupting the continent’s recovery from the pandemic.
  5. Russia and Ukraine War
    • It is no secret that various African countries are dependent on agricultural imports.
    • Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of items such as wheat, sunflower oil, barley, and soybeans to a number of African countries like Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Algeria.
  6. Disruption in trade and supply chains
    • The disruption in trade and supply chains caused due to Russia’s decision to block exports of grains through the ports at the Black Sea resulted in the prices of wheat skyrocketing.

A regional response to the food crisis:

  • As the drought continued to evolve from 2020-2022, humanitarian actors within the countries of the Horn which are most affected, have to an extent acted swiftly in response to the crisis.
  • This, in turn, helped save many lives. Across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, nearly 500 humanitarian organisations, most of which are locally led and community-based, are currently engaged in the drought response.
  • The Government of Ethiopia put in place a Drought Response Plan in July 2022, which called for a funding of US$1.66 billion to respond to the food crisis.
  • One of the primary ways to galvanise and mobilise resources to respond to the crisis has been consolidated appeals at the country-level.
  • In Kenya, a “Flash Appeal” has been in place since 2011. This appeal has been revised now and calls for US$290 million.

Response of the International community:

  • Calls for action
    • Several humanitarian agencies have published calls for action for the HOA region.
    • These include UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, UN Refugee Agency, the International Organisation for Migration, the World Health Organisation.
  • Humanitarian response plans
    • The US has contributed to each of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia’s humanitarian response plans.
    • Most of these fundings have been channelled through the UN and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • Conflict mediation efforts
    • China has entered into conflict mediation efforts in the Horn. It sponsored the Africa Peace, Good Governance and Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June 2022.
  • Humanitarian Aid
    • The United Kingdom allocated US$156 million in funding for humanitarian aid in East Africa in order to play a more proactive role in the continent.
  • Role of India
    • India, for its part, has spearheaded the proposal to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
    • Unlike other staples, millets require less water and agricultural inputs and is a traditional food that is consumed by millions of people in Africa.
  • Focus on vulnerable population
    • In response to the deepening health crisis, WHO is focused on ensuring that vulnerable populations, especially children have access to essential health services.
    • Protecting populations from diseases through immunization campaigns.
    • Detecting and responding to outbreaks and providing treatment for severe acute malnutrition, among other actions.


  • Whatever the international response has been so far, it has been largely inadequate.
  • There is a clear funding deficit for the HOA region as compared to funding that the Ukraine appeal has received.
  • This points toward a broader inequality in global aid distribution, much along the same lines as ‘Vaccine Apartheid’ which African countries were subjected to.
  • In the long run, the impact of climate change is going to become more severe and frequent.
  • Therefore, it is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that funds, social and humanitarian safety networks, and early anticipatory appeals are in place if the Horn of Africa is to prevent a famine in 2023.

Source: ORFOnline

Mains Question:

Q. What is the geopolitical importance of the Horn of Africa to India? What are the key challenges in the region? (250 words).