Africa: 36.1 million people affected by drought in IGAD region

MOMBASA (Kenya)— About 36.1 million people in the IGAD region have been affected by the current drought situation and are facing heightened levels of food insecurity.

The drought is also said to have wiped out an estimated 4.2 million head of livestock, shattering the livelihoods of entire pastoralist communities and crippling them economically across the region.

This has been described as a devastating challenge to the continent given that the region hosts almost 50 per cent of the livestock in sub-saharan Africa and livestock accounts for almost 15 percent of the region’s GDP.

In response to these extreme weather challenges, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has proposed to undertake a number of proactive measures beginning with convening a regional climate outlook forum to be held on Feb 20.

“This forum will be part of our continuing effort to remain the most climate-aware region on the continent and enhance the ability of our member states to collect and process data for disaster forecasting, in order to reduce the gap between early warning and early action,” said IGAD Executive Secretary, Workneh Gebeyehu after delivering the 3rd state of the IGAD region address.

“Already we have noted some evidence of the success of this approach. In 2021 and 2022, we noted with some satisfaction that our initiative to ‘take the data to the people’ raised the warning in good time,” Gebeyehu said.

He described 2020 and 2021 as the most challenging years in the history of IGAD, saying the period was one of the hottest, driest and most conflict-affected periods in recent memory.

He added that the drought situation and the food security challenge has been one of the most devastating non-conflict issues affecting the region, having a great impact on peace and security and stability.

Going to 2023, the regions’ climate outlook still looks worrisome as climate scientist have issued an early warning that this year could be even warmer because the la Nina climate phenomenon which was cooling global temperatures is coming to an end.

It will most likely be replaced with the El nino phenomenon which is projected to raise temperatures worldwide.

“The good news for our region from this projection is that the likelihood of a 6th consecutive season of failed rains is reduced”

“But the bad news is that it is possible that our region could rapidly change from severe drought to severe floods as the ones we had in 1996, 2016 and most recently 2019,” he said.

The prolonged drought also triggered large scale population displacement with close to two million people becoming internally displaced and increasing the refugee burden in the region.

Close to 40,000 people are said to have sought asylum from hunger in neighbouring countries in 2022.

The IGAD executive secretary also mentioned that the Russia-Ukraine war had a massive effect on the regional economy inflating food prices, fertilizer and fuel prices in the region.

It is estimated that food prices went up by 55.6 per cent, compelling the neediest people in the region to spend almost 90 per cent of their income on food alone.

To address this, Igad has proposed to review its Food Security and Nutrition Response Strategy and align it with current realities.

“As part of this initiative, we shall be investing heavily in food security data. A starting point will be a region-wide census of livestock in order to have a clear picture of the situation after the drought,” Gebeheyu said.

He added that as part of ongoing efforst to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, Igad will this year be supporting member states to access climate financing under the Green Climate Fund founded by the 2015 Paris Agreement as well as the Loss and Damage Fund established by a resolution of COP27 in 2022.

On the issue of regional integration, Gebeheyu said that it remains the core mandate of the bloc adding that the region has incredible integration potential waiting to be unlocked

According to the Africa Regional Integration Index, the region is approximately 50 per cent integrated.

He said that the bloc was committed as a regional economic community of the African Union to deliver on the tremendous potential that the Continental Free Trade Area holds for the region.

“On trade, we have also made significant progress to lower tariff and non-tariff barriers including the Igad protocols on free movement and transhumance as well as establishment of one-stop border posts,” he said.

The regional bloc also unveiled the Igad Council of eminent persons who were selected to push for peace and integration within the region.

Twelve prominent personalities were conferred to be members of the council after being approved by their member states.

They include Olympic marathon runner Paul Tergat, Major General (Rtd) John Selli the chairman of Kenya Council of Elders and former female marathon runner Catherine Ndereba from Kenya.

Others were Olympic Gold medalist Haile Gabresilassie, Deratu Tulu and Prof. Ahmed Zakira, a renowned scholar from Ethiopia. From Somalia the list included Ugas Ali Ugas, a respected cal elder and Prof. Idil Osman, a Professor of communication and regional peace advocate.

Ambassador Deng’ Alier Deng’ Ruai and reverend Dr. Gabriel Gai Riam from South Sudan, former Djibouti minister of health Kassim Issak Osman and his counterpart Aicha Mohamed Robleh were also conferred with the honors to be part of the council.