Horn of Africa Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #11

September 30, 2017

  • Nearly one million people displaced in Somalia from January to August, more than 800,000 primarily due to drought conditions.
  • Clashes in Ethiopia’s Oromiya and Somali regions displace populations, exacerbate humanitarian needs.
  • USG provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian funding for the Horn of Africa regional response in FY 2017.

Between January and August, relief organizations recorded approximately 975,000 new internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, with drought contributing to the displacement of more than 800,000 of the IDPs, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Relief organizations and international media have reported the displacement of thousands of people in Ethiopia’s Oromiya and Somali regions in recent weeks, following conflict in border areas between the two regions. Displacement and casualty figures remain difficult to verify due to the fluid security situation and limited humanitarian access. Relief agencies are coordinating with Government of Ethiopia (GoE) authorities to identify areas of displacement and critical humanitarian needs.

In September, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported an increased likelihood that a La Niña climatic event could develop by late 2017. Historically, La Niña events are associated with below-average October-to-December deyr rains over the Horn of Africa, according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

In FY 2017, the U.S. Government (USG) provided more than $1 billion in multi-sector humanitarian assistance for the the Horn of Africa regional response, including approximately $235.3 million from USAID/OFDA, nearly $631.5 million from USAID/FFP, and more than $174.1 million from State/PRM.

Numbers At A Glance

6.2 million

People in Somalia Experiencing Acute Food Insecurity

8.5 million

People in Ethiopia Experiencing Acute Food Insecurity

3.4 million

People in Kenya Experiencing Acute Food Insecurity

3.1 million

People in Somalia Experiencing Crisis or Emergency Levels of Acute Food Insecurity


Somali Refugees in Neighboring Countries

Humanitarian Funding

For the Horn of Africa Response in FY 2016-2017

USAID/OFDA $380,161,065
USAID/FFP $1,141,234,477
State/PRM $393,341,527
Total $1,914,737,069

In September, NOAA reported an increased likelihood that a La Niña climatic event could develop by late 2017. Historically, La Niña events are associated with below-average October-to-December deyr rains over the Horn of Africa, according to FEWS NET. Anticipated below-average seasonal rains in late 2017 would mark the fourth consecutive season of below-average rainfall in many areas of the region.

Between January and August, UNHCR recorded approximately 975,000 new IDPs in Somalia, of whom 804,000 people—or 82 percent—cited drought as the primary cause of displacement; 151,000 people—or 15 percent—cited conflict and insecurity; and 20,000 people cited other reasons, including floods. The approximately 58,000 IDPs recorded in August represent a 55 percent decrease from the more than 130,000 IDPs recorded in July, and included nearly 34,000 IDPs displaced by drought—the lowest monthly drought-displaced population to date in 2017. Bay Region is the area of origin for more than 237,600 drought-related IDPs, while Lower Shabelle Region is the area of origin for more than 113,200 conflict-related IDPs, according to UNHCR. Countrywide, food and livelihoods assistance are priority needs among new IDPs. From September 1–19, relief agencies recorded an additional 26,000 IDPs in Somalia, including 16,000 people displaced by drought, according to provisional UNHCR data.

Private landowners in Somalia, particularly in the capital city of Mogadishu and Bay’s Baidoa town, forcibly evicted more than 100,000 IDPs between January and September, according to the UN. In some instances, relief agencies and local authorities have identified new settlements for the evicted IDPs; however, evictions by private landowners often result in damage or destruction to humanitarian investments, such as water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure, and further disrupt IDP livelihoods and coping mechanisms. Relief agencies are working with local authorities to ensure that landowners uphold tenure agreements, while engaging displaced populations to raise awareness of legal rights concerning IDP settlements.

Insecurity and violent attacks targeting aid workers continue to negatively impact humanitarian operations across Somalia. The UN reported in August that the number of humanitarian workers abducted by armed actors has increased, with the majority of recent abductions occurring along main access roads. In south-central Somalia, informal roadblocks and checkpoints have rendered many routes unsafe for relief personnel. On September 12, al-Shabaab released three hostage aid workers after receiving payment from the abductees’ families, according to local media. Al-Shabaab militants seized the relief workers during a humanitarian intervention in Hiran Region in July.

The number of new suspected cholera cases and related deaths in Somalia has significantly declined since the beginning of June, according to the UN. Relief organizations attribute the decline to increased community awareness; improved WASH services; additional treatment facilities and trained health workers; enhanced quality of health care services; and a cholera vaccination campaign from March–May that reached more than 1 million people. Between January 1 and September 26, heath workers recorded more than 77,100 cases and approximately 1,160 related deaths in 16 of Somalia’s 18 regions; nearly 60 percent of all suspected cases occurred in children younger than five years of age. Despite the reduced cholera caseload in Somalia, health actors note that suspected cases could increase during the October-to-December deyr rainy season due to an anticipated cyclical deterioration in WASH conditions.

Health actors recorded more than 17,200 suspected and confirmed measles cases from January to September, more than three times the approximately 5,700 cases recorded during 2016, according to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGoS). FGoS authorities and humanitarian agencies plan to conduct a countrywide measles vaccination campaign in November and December targeting more than 4 million children ages ten years and younger, but note that limited funding could delay the campaign.

Food security actors in Somalia provided emergency food assistance to nearly 2.4 million people in August, an estimated 73 percent of the target population, according to the Food Security Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian food security activities, comprising UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders. Approximately 77 percent of emergency food assistance provided in August was cash-based, while approximately 23 percent consisted of in-kind food. USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP) assisted 61 percent of the 2.4 million people who received emergency food assistance during the month.

In FY 2017, the USG provided NGO and UN partners with approximately $421.8 million to support multi-sector famine prevention efforts in Somalia. The total includes more than $260.7 million from USAID/FFP for market-based cash and voucher programs, as well as emergency in-kind food and nutrition commodities; nearly $126 million from USAID/OFDA; and more than $35.1 million from State/PRM.

Relief organizations and international media reported that clashes in areas along the border between Ethiopia’s Oromiya and Somali regions have displaced thousands of people in recent weeks. Information on population displacement and conflict-related casualties remains limited due to the fluid security situation and restricted humanitarian access. Relief agencies are coordinating with GoE authorities to identify areas of displacement and assess needs. As of late September, the GoE and relief actors had identified IDPs in Oromiya’s Bale, Borena, East Hararge, Guji, West Guji, and West Hararge zones, as well as Somali’s Dawa, Erar, Fafan, and Sitti zones. The GoE is leading response activities and has identified emergency shelter and relief commodities as critical needs. While the inability to conduct rapid assessments and verification exercises continues to hamper response activities, relief agencies are supporting the provision of health care services through hospitals and mobile health teams.

Flooding affected more than 53,000 people in Gambella and Oromiya regions during August and September, with more than 13,400 people displaced by floods between August 28 and September 22, according to the UN and the GoE National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC). Heavy rainfall has generated flooding along the Awash River Basin, which includes parts of Afar and Oromiya regions, and increased water flow to the Koka Dam; flood-related damage to the dam could adversely affect electricity production, according to NDRMC.

In response, the GoE has activated a national task force, including GoE authorities, UN agencies, NGOs, and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, to coordinate the flood response and prepare a response plan for at least 300,000 people at risk of displacement due to the potential for additional flooding, the UN reports. As of mid-September, NDRMC was providing initial food assistance, relief commodities, and health services through temporary health clinics. Additional priority needs include shelter and water purification supplies, according to regional authorities.

The fifth round of WFP emergency food distributions in Somali Region has experienced delays due to logistical challenges and negotiations with regional authorities regarding the modality and composition of food assistance. As of September 27, WFP had distributed less than two-thirds of planned food assistance, leaving vulnerable populations in the region at risk of further deterioration in nutrition and food security conditions.

The weekly acute watery diarrhea (AWD) caseload in Ethiopia has declined significantly since peaking in mid-March, WHO reports. Despite the current trend, AWD risk factors remain, including ongoing drought conditions in Somali Region and labor migration. In Amhara Region, relief actors are delivering WASH interventions in affected areas to prevent AWD transmission, supporting water system assessments and provision of hygiene materials. In Somali, relief actors had delivered safe drinking water to more than 429,000 people as of late August, with plans to rehabilitate boreholes in prioritized areas of the region. In FY 2017, USAID/OFDA supported WASH interventions in Amhara, Oromiya, Tigray, Somali, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) regions through NGO and UN partners, including more than $10.2 million to International Rescue Committee (IRC) for construction of emergency sanitation facilities in IDP sites, hygiene promotion activities, provision of water treatment supplies, and emergency water trucking.

With WHO support, a GoE-led campaign provided measles vaccinations to approximately 2.6 million children in Somali Region between June and August. The GoE campaign targeted children ages six months–14 years, and included complementary health services, such as deworming medication, acute malnutrition screenings, and vitamin A distributions, according to WHO. The UN agency provided technical support for the initiative, including coordination, social mobilization, and training-of-trainers activities.

In FY 2017, USAID/FFP provided the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP), led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with more than 254,220 MT of emergency food assistance—valued at approximately $151.8 million—to support 1.5 million people across Ethiopia, including in the city of Dire Dawa and in Amhara, Oromiya, Tigray, and SNNP regions. In addition, USAID/FFP provided WFP with 175,850 MT of in-kind food assistance and locally and regionally procured commodities—valued at approximately $116 million—to support emergency food distributions for an estimated 3.3 million drought-affected people in Somali. USAID/FFP also provided WFP with approximately 69,800 MT of food commodities—valued at an estimated $50.2 million—to support refugees in Ethiopia from neighboring countries, including South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan. Furthermore, USAID/FFP continued to address nutrition needs through joint activities with USAID/OFDA partner Mercy Corps, providing the NGO with 1,136 MT of specialized nutrition commodities to treat acute malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women, as well as children ages five years and younger.

Ongoing drought conditions and resultant high staple food prices continue to drive food insecurity in Kenya, FEWS NET reports. While substantial offseason rains from July–September have resulted in improved forage, livestock, and water conditions in Baringo, Marsabit, Turkana, and West Pokot counties, food security continues to deteriorate in other pastoral areas where the majority of vulnerable households are experiencing Crisis—IPC 3—levels of acute food insecurity, according to FEWS NET.

FEWS NET projects that the upcoming long rains harvest could be 20–30 percent below average, resulting in staple food prices exceeding five-year averages and further constraining household food access. Most vulnerable households in agricultural areas continue to experience Stressed—IPC 2—levels of food insecurity, with some households in Kilifi, Kwale, and Taita Taveta counties experiencing Crisis-level food insecurity.

USAID/OFDA provided $750,000 in FY 2017 to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support nutrition interventions in drought-affected areas of Kenya, including areas of Marsabit and Turkana where acute malnutrition levels continue to exceed the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent. Additionally, USAID/FFP provided $3.7 million in FY 2017 to UNICEF to support severe acute malnutrition treatment for approximately 48,000 children. With USAID support, UNICEF continues to coordinate with Government of Kenya (GoK) authorities to monitor and treat acute malnutrition.

In FY 2017, USAID/FFP provided more than $65 million in humanitarian assistance to WFP, including approximately 39,000 MT of in-kind food assistance and locally-procured nutrition commodities. USAID/FFP also provided support to WFP for the regional procurement of specialized nutrition commodities, targeting approximately 545,000 people in Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, and East Pokot counties with blanket supplementary feeding. Additionally, USAID/FFP contributed in-kind food and cash-based transfers to WFP’s elections contingency operation to provide assistance in the event of displacement or violence related to the Kenyan general elections.

Recurrent natural disasters and ongoing complex emergencies remain major contributors to vulnerability across the Horn of Africa, negatively affecting the lives and livelihoods of populations throughout the region. Somalia has experienced a persistent complex emergency since 1991 due to chronic food insecurity, widespread violence, and recurring droughts and floods. The 2011 drought severely reduced food security among Somali pastoralists and populations in marginal farming areas, resulting in Famine levels of food insecurity in areas of Bakool, Bay, Lower Shabelle, and Middle Shabelle regions, as well as among IDPs in Mogadishu and the nearby Afgooye corridor.

Despite modest improvements in recent years, malnutrition rates in Somalia remain among the highest in the world, and ongoing insecurity in the country—particularly in areas that lack established local authorities and where al-Shabaab is present—contributes to the complex emergency. Sustained life-saving assistance, coupled with interventions aimed at building resilience, is critical to help vulnerable households meet basic needs, reduce malnutrition, and protect livelihoods. An estimated 6.2 million people in Somalia require humanitarian assistance through December 2017.

Since the Horn of Africa drought crisis of 2011, USAID has scaled up efforts to build resilience in drought-prone areas. The GoK continues to lead drought response efforts, and the GoE is building increased response capacity, with support from the USG, other donors, and relief actors.

Multiple consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall and the effects of the 2015/2016 El Niño climatic event resulted in deteriorating agricultural, livestock, food security, and nutrition conditions in northeastern and central Ethiopia. By December 2015, the GoE estimated that 10.2 million people required emergency food assistance and other humanitarian interventions during 2016, in addition to nearly 8 million chronically food-insecure people requiring Productive Safety Net Program support.

In response to the drought in Ethiopia, USAID activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and Washington, D.C.,-based Response Management Team (RMT) in March 2016; the DART and RMT stood down in November 2016 as humanitarian conditions improved. In August 2017, the GoE estimated that 8.5 million people will require humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia through December, primarily due to newer drought-related needs in southern and southeastern parts of the country. In addition, 4 million chronically food-insecure people supported through the Productive Safety Net Program will require assistance through 2017.

In addition to drought, populations across Ethiopia confront other challenges—including seasonal flooding, localized intercommunal conflict, above-average food prices, disease outbreaks, and limited access to health and WASH services—that contribute to sustained humanitarian needs and an ongoing complex emergency.

In Kenya, drought conditions have exacerbated chronic stressors, including food insecurity and malnutrition. Through ongoing FY 20152017 programs, USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP are supporting efforts to strengthen health and nutrition systems in drought-affected areas in coordination with USAID/Kenya resilience initiatives to mitigate the effects of recurrent natural hazards.

On October 6, 2016, U.S. Ambassador Stephen M. Schwartz renewed the disaster declaration for the complex emergency in Somalia for FY 2017. On March 28, 2017, Ambassador Schwartz declared a separate disaster due to drought and food insecurity in Somalia for FY 2017.

On October 18, 2016, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Peter H. Vrooman redeclared a disaster for Ethiopia in FY 2017 in response to the ongoing complex emergency.

On February 17, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Robert F. Godec declared a disaster for Kenya due to the effects of drought and increasing food insecurity and malnutrition.

Last updated: October 16, 2017

Share This Page