Foreign Policy Blogs

Drought and Social Enterprise in the Horn of Africa

According to International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, it’s time to turn our attention to the drought in East Africa now, before it’s too late.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon agrees with that sentiment, saying that he is“extremely worried” about the potential famine and massive numbers of deaths.

Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are facing one of the worst droughts in over half a century, with over 10 million people affected, according to the World Food Programme. Out of that 10 million, two million are children under the age of five in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The Need
Secretary Mitchell said that “we need everyone who can help from across the world now to make sure they focus on this developing crisis here to stop it becoming a catastrophe. There is an emergency developing of profound proportions.

“Britain, as always, has shown huge generosity and is in a leadership position to try and resolve this crisis. We need others to do so too. We need the whole of the international community now to bend every sinew to help these poor people here who are in a desperate condition.”

One of the worst hit areas is, once again, Somalia. For two years, there has been a ban on humanitarian aid coming into the country. The ban, put in place by the Al-Shabaab militant group, was lifted on July 7, 2011. Not only is there drought and famine, but the price of food is exorbitantly high, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The price of cereals is 270% higher now than it was at this time last year. Overall, food is at least 50% more expensive. In parts of southern Somalia, one out of three children is malnourished, and starvation occurs in certain southern cities that are inaccessible to humanitarian groups.

According to OCHA, “The current situation in southern Somalia is the worst it has been in the last decade and if humanitarian interventions do not occur immediately, thousands of people will die.”

On July 15, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) delivered five tons of emergency nutrition supplies to the Horn of Africa, including food, medicine and equipment to supply clean water. It’s enough for 100,000 people over a period of three months, according to Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Representative for Somalia.

The UN is calling on States that have the means to contribute to the $1.6 billion necessary to halt this catastrophe. Only half that amount has so far been received. According to the UN News Centre, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will “personally get in touch with countries and ask them to provide the necessary resources.”

The Cause

One of the many contributing factors to the situation in the Horn of Africa is, unsurprisingly, global warming. The lack of water has been one of the destabilizing forces in Somalia. This is the case in many parts of Africa, including Darfur, Sudan. The UN asserts that governments should begin to prepare for more droughts like the ones we are seeing now.

After a conference on sustainable development in Finland this week, Mr. Ki-Moon told reporters, “Sustainable development is the top priority of the United Nations and the international community. We have to work to address climate change, the food crisis, energy shortages, water scarcity, global health, gender empowerment – all are interconnected.”

Aly Abou-Sabaa, chairman of the Climate Change Coordination Committee at the African Development Bank (AfDB), says that Africa is the continent most impacted by climate change. He and the AfDB are advocating for an African Green Fund, specifically to enhance growth in sustainable energy resources and combat the effects of global warming. He believes that with such a fund, Africa could do much more to combat the effects of global warming.

How to Help

Somalia needs the help of entire nations to rise above the disaster they are facing. As far as supporting humanitarian work in the area, the International Rescue Committee has a field office in Gaalkacyo, a town that is home to many internally displaced people. According to the IRC’s website, they provide “emergency environmental health and livelihoods assistance to both displaced people and the wider Gaalkacyo community.” Their programs “rehabilitate hand-dug wells and boreholes, and truck water and construct latrines.” Their work impacts 80,000 people in the area.

Click here  to read personal accounts of refugees fleeing the drought in Somalia.

There is a notable social enterprise innovation that is making a difference in East Africa right now, and that is micro- irrigation. Mirco-irrigation is small-scale irrigation that uses a minimal amount of water to nourish the fields of farmers.

Kickstart, founded in 1991 by Nick Moon and Martin Fisher, began in Kenya as a social enterprise. Many Kenyans – also impacted by the drought and home to many Somali refugees – live and farm on less than two acres. Kickstart began by selling these farmers their micro-irrigation systems at a low cost, which increased their own income potential ten-fold. 45,000 pumps are now in use, generating $37 million in profit and wages, according to their website.

Do you know of any other social enterprises that are making a difference in the situation in East Africa? Send an email to [email protected].

UN welcomes Somali insurgents’ decision to drop ban on humanitarian aid; July 7, 2011

UN Delivers Relief to Somalia as Response to Horn of Africa Drought Gathers Pace, July 15,

African Development Bank Group: The AfDB Urges to an African Green Fund: June 8, 2011



Crystal Huskey

Crystal Huskey is a freelance writer, musician and fair trade arts consultant. She has a B.A. in religion and will graduate with her M.A. in international relations in the spring of 2012. She is passionate about human rights and gender equality.

Growing up as the daughter of missionaries to refugee communities has given Huskey a heart for the outcasts and brokenhearted. She believes that much of the world's crime can be prevented by creating economic opportunities at every level of society.