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Crisis in the Horn of Africa: are we seeing the normalisation of food and water insecurity?

Humanitarian assistance Poverty Famines International relations Nigeria Somalia South Sudan Yemen


The Famine Early Warning Systems Network believes that roughly 70 million people will require food aid across 45 countries in 2017. There are four countries (Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen) that house 5,000,001-10,000,000 people that need emergency food assistance while also facing the added possibility of famine, which is the most severe form of food insecurity, this year. A lack of clean water, disease, incessant conflict, climactic changes, drought and rising food and water prices have contribute to a “perfect” humanitarian crisis, made worse by an overly strained humanitarian community  In this paper, I argue that famines in the Horn of Africa could be normalised due to the constant conflict, an absence of good government and now worsening droughts, partly due to climate change, that has prevented famine-prone countries from recovering from previous drought and severe food shortages that hit the region in 2010-11. The region may be experiencing a famine pattern: manmade factors with worsening climate elements produce famine-related crises that progressively increase in magnitude and rate. The normalisation of crisis could worsen as an exhausted international community becomes less inclined to intervene quickly in a perpetually crisis-ridden region, by containing displaced persons to Africa and easing the rate at which aid is provided.

Key points

  • Conflict, a lack of effective democratic governance, drought and rising food prices have contributed to the humanitarian crisis facing the Horn of Africa.
  • There is potential for a crisis such as this to become more regular and even normalised as the factors mentioned previously all prevent the region from recovering from past instances of food and water insecurity.
  • Said normalisation could be pushing the international community to contain Horn migration to Africa and reduce the reaction time of their aid efforts.
  • Food and water insecurity could be normalised because of the region’s inability to recover, which in turn is strengthened by the actions of an exhausted donor community and worsening climate conditions.
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