In Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, the seasonal rains finally arrived. But crisis conditions persist in Somalia; elsewhere in the region, the road to recovery will be long.
Last updated June 2012
Rains in late 2011 have brought some relief to East Africa, where a drought and food crisis have ensnared millions of people. On February 3, 2012, the UN declared that famine conditions in Somalia had come to an end. A good harvest and substantial humanitarian assistance played a role in the improvements, but the situation in the country remains serious and reports indicate that 2.3 million Somalis are still experiencing a food emergency.
In many areas of the Sahel, emergency conditions are expected to persist well into 2012. Households remain extremely vulnerable to additional shocks, as the drought has depleted the assets of herders and farmers. Several good seasons are required to rebuild herd sizes, improve harvests, and reduce levels of debt.
Oxfam is providing aid to more than 2.8 million people affected by the crisis in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, including rural pastoralists, small-scale farmers, the urban poor, and refugees.
Providing clean, safe water: After years of poor rainfall, many local water sources have run dry. Oxfam engineers are repairing boreholes, wells, and water pumps; improving traditional water-storage reservoirs; and training local maintenance committees. When no other good options are available, Oxfam teams truck water in from other regions.
Improving sanitation and public health: In the face of malnutrition, poor water supplies, and migration due to drought, there remains a real risk of outbreaks of fatal diseases like cholera, malaria, and diarrhea. Oxfam teams are working to protect public health by building and rehabilitating latrines, and conducting health campaigns in rural areas and crowded camps.
Rebuilding livelihoods and increasing access to food, markets, and services: The crisis has hit the poorest people in the region hardest - those who have no savings to fall back on when disaster strikes, and who, through the death of livestock or the failure of crops, have lost their main assets. In many parts of the region, there is food in the markets, but high prices make it inaccessible to poor families. Oxfam is working to help people rebuild their livelihoods and restore their incomes.
Cash for work: Oxfam employs local community members to dig wells, build latrines, and carry out other public works, enabling communities to build vital assets while providing badly needed cash to purchase essentials.
Social protection: Oxfam provides regular cash payments to vulnerable families to help them cope with rising food prices, keep children in school, and pay healthcare bills. Providing cash in areas where food is available locally has been a key part of Oxfam’s response to the current crisis.
Supporting farmers: Oxfam equips farmers with new tools and seeds to help them prepare for the next harvest.
Working with partners: Oxfam’s work across the region aims to support local NGOs and civil society - those who understand the local situation best of all - by providing funds and technical expertise. We also work closely with government departments, the private sector, and academic institutions.
Support for women: Women and girls are often particularly vulnerable at times of disaster. We support women’s participation and leadership in the communities, and we involve women in managing water systems and other key resources.
Lobbying and advocacy: The underlying causes of the East Africa food crisis are poor governance, conflict, and chronic under-investment in some regions and communities. Humanitarian aid can save lives, but aid alone cannot address the root causes of such crises – or prevent them from recurring. It is no coincidence that the worst-affected areas are the poorest and least developed. Oxfam advocates with governments, donors, and international decision makers, urging them to take a long-term approach to tackling food crises - to invest in basic services and infrastructure; to provide support for pastoralists and small-scale food producers, particularly women; to assist communities that are struggling to cope with climate change; and to ensure that those living in marginalized communities have the opportunity to participate in the political processes that affect their lives.
Drought in this part of the world is inevitable; disasters are not.
Oxfam aims to reach 3 million people in the East Africa region with a variety of support including food aid, clean water, and agricultural support for farmers and herders. We are also campaigning to change the root causes of this crisis. Find out how you can support our efforts.