Dire Dawa, Ethiopia – Millions of people in the Horn of Africa are suffering from a prolonged drought that is coinciding with the United States‘s proposal to slash funding for lifesaving food aid.
Earlier this month, the White House, in the 2020 fiscal year budget submitted to Congress, called for a 24-percent cut in US foreign assistance.
Recently released data from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSN) predicts worsening drought, severe hunger and crop failures of up to 30 percent in parts of the region in the coming months.
“We’re very concerned by the deteriorating conditions in the region where we are seeing families – whose lives rely on the land – unable to cope,” said Matt Davis, the East Africa regional director for Catholic Relief Services, which oversees a major US government-funded food assistance programme in the region.
“We are concerned the administration’s budget could abandon millions of families around the world just when they need help the most.”
Climate change is also dramatically impacting crop yields in some of the poorest areas of the world.
The number of extreme climate-related disasters including severe heat, droughts, floods and storms has doubled since 1990, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released by the United Nations last year.
These disasters destroy crops, resulting in tragic consequences for people who live off the land. In the Horn of Africa, up to 80 percent of the population is subsistence farmers.
“We have not seen an improvement in the climate situation,” said Birhan, a mother of four from rural Hawzen district in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“The drought is becoming recurrent. But if there is rain, it is excessive and destroys the crops.”
Birhan is one of around 1.5 million people who receive food through a USAID-funded programme that provides emergency assistance to people affected by the drought.
“Without this assistance, our only chance would be to migrate. I don’t even know where I would go,” she said.
To make matters worse, rainfall from October to December of last year was 55 percent less than normal in some parts of the Horn. As a result, widespread hunger is expected to increase in the coming months.