The cause of the hunger in northern Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia is the most severe drought in decades. Some 80% of the livestock northern Kenya have already died. This is catastrophic for the people living in the region whose livelihoods depend on livestock. The situation is also dire in the countries around Lake Chad: 7 million people in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger are suffering from food shortages, again caused by violence, poverty and drought.
The continent needs at least $4.5 billion for emergency relief, but just a fraction of that has been raised so far, even as analysis from Oxfam shows that an early response is far cheaper than a late one. The Horn of Africa – particularly Ethiopia – and much of southern Africa is in bad straits; and the weather is not the only factor at play. A country’s ability to cope depends partly on its public finances and ability to mobilize resources; for some, weakening currencies is making food imports more expensive, and conflict is making it difficult to move supplies around.
A five-country study commissioned by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Niger, Mozambique and Malawi estimated that response at four months after a failed harvest costs $49 per household, whereas response at six months after harvest costs $1,294 per household. A similar study in Ethiopia found that early commercial destocking (selling off animals while they are still healthy) was 137 times cheaper than waiting until herds are depleted then responding with imported food aid and restocking.
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