Committed or complacent

A failing response to the 2019 Horn of Africa drought crisis

As drought devastates the Horn of Africa yet again, the following analysis comparing 2019 to earlier droughts paints a bleak picture and indictment on the humanitarian community. The urgency to better respond is exacerbated by people’s lack of recovery from the 2017 drought and a further deterioration predicted in coming months. The slow response to the 2011 drought was widely recognised as an immense failure that contributed to the famine that killed over 260,000 people in Somalia, and devastated Ethiopia and Kenya.

Recognising and learning from that failure, the humanitarian community vowed it would never happen again. As drought took hold in 2017 in the Horn, the humanitarian response was more timely, relatively well resourced and better targeted than 2011, and largely hailed a success as famine was averted.

Only two years on, the Horn finds itself yet again on the precipice of catastrophe, yet the humanitarian response to date is woefully inadequate. Are we committed to ensuring the type of response that we know averted famine in 2017 or have we fallen back into the complacency that contributed to the 2011 famine? It is a matter of political will, where we know early intervention save lives.