New York, NY
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning, everyone.
Thanks so much, David. Thanks to our co-hosts, OCHA, as well as the governments of Italy, the United Kingdom, and Qatar. Welcome as well to the representatives from the Horn of Africa governments. The United States is really grateful to partner with each of you here today to address this horrific food crisis in the Horn, and thanks for taking the time away from all the other things you could be doing as well. There are a lot of challenges facing the world right now, but none as acute as this one right now.
I traveled in July to Kenya and Somalia, where I saw firsthand what the Secretary-General just described, which is hunger overwhelming the Horn of Africa.
I spoke to mothers who had lost their livestock to the lack of rain, fathers whose crops had withered, families who had fled their homes in search of survival – as we know urban areas are being completely overwhelmed by rural populations – teenagers carrying their siblings on their backs for days at a time, and if any of you have seen in previous crisis, I saw small mounds of earth, where parents were forced to bury their kids.
In the few months since my visit, as impossible as it seems, the situation has become even worse. According to the UN, as we’ve heard, 20.5 million people now live in desperate need of emergency food assistance – in addition to health care, emergency shelter, clean water, and sanitation and hygiene services. You see all the coping mechanisms, the negative coping mechanisms. Already, girls are being forced into marriage. Women are facing an increase of gender-based violence.
Just a few weeks ago, on September 5, the Famine Review Committee announced that without a significant expansion of humanitarian assistance, parts of Somalia may soon be plunged into Famine. Currently, the Famine projection covers only Somalia, but if the seasonal rains fail for a fifth consecutive time this fall, as we expect them to, unfortunately Kenya and Ethiopia could be next.
The countries most affected by the drought have been working hard to respond. And I think this is really noteworthy – in Kenya, President Kenyatta’s emergency assistance to affected communities made the Government of Kenya, the second largest donor in the drought response this fiscal year. That also speaks to what is not happening. Ethiopia continues to assist food-insecure households to buffer the impact of the drought and other shocks, and recently provided emergency food and cash assistance to more than two million people. In Somalia, members of the private sector are raising and distributing funds to the most affected communities in the south. And Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has taken the important step of appointing a Special Presidential Envoy for the Drought Response – the political will and leadership and attention at the highest levels in Somalia to this horrific crisis.
But these countries need more support, and we have to provide it. In 2011, the world failed to fully respond to the alarm bells, which had been ringing for months before the formal declaration of Famine in Somalia. As a result, more than a quarter of a million people lost their lives. About half of them were children who did not live to see their fifth birthdays.
Now, we face the very real possibility of history repeating itself. But we still have a narrow window of opportunity to stave off Famine in the Horn and the United States has acted aggressively to do just that.
In July, I announced $1.2 billion in surge funding to respond to humanitarian needs caused by the drought – which brought the U.S. Government’s total funding response to this crisis to $1.8 billion. Today, I’m announcing that the U.S. is committing an additional $151 million in new USAID assistance to address the most pressing needs in Somalia.
The majority of that new funding will support the World Food Programme efforts in the country, providing an additional two and a half additional months of emergency food assistance. It will help more than 3.6 million people in communities across the country, and it will expand our existing efforts to provide emergency food and cash assistance, malnutrition treatment services, and access to health care.
But to truly prevent the onset of Famine in the Horn, we need everyone to step up – philanthropies, multilateral organizations, and external donors. But also partner governments around the world have the ability to help. We can avert this crisis, just as we proved we could avert a crisis in the past. While it is true that in 2011, the world acted too slowly as the Famine in Somalia took its terrible toll, in 2017, we actually united – we worked together to provide emergency food assistance, clean water supplies, health services, and other humanitarian aid. Our combined efforts, I’m sure it’s fair to say, helped stave off Famine and supported communities as they rebuilt their livelihoods.
It is not too late to avert another Famine in the Horn of Africa. But far more needs to be done, and done now.
Thank you so much.