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February 22, 2013

East African Nations Assess Drought Resilience

East African ministers are gathering in Ethiopia to discuss their policies for increasing resilience against drought.  The last regional drought in 2011 triggered famine conditions in southern Somalia and forced hundreds of thousands of Somalis to flee to Kenya and Ethiopia.
 
Dealing with future drought is taking center stage at the the IGAD meeting, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of East African nations.  Droughts occur in this region about every three years.

Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, says development partners have been pushing for a regional approach to strengthening resilience rather than just reacting.

“We just cannot continue to mobilize massive humanitarian response year after year," Lindborg stated. "We need to take a more preventive approach.  We need to work in partnership and we need to have the commitment of countries, of effective inclusive governments that can lead on a resilience policy.”
 
The last East African drought in 2011 was considered the worst in 60 years.  War-torn Somalia took the worst of the crisis, but crops across the region failed, and more than 13 million people were left food insecure.

Since then, regional governments, development groups, the European Union and the World Bank have been discussing drought prevention instead of relief aid and ways to fund it.
 
Lindborg says, for example, Ethiopia received $70 million over the past two years to assist with implementing resilience policies.

“We work to identify better mapping where water sources are so we can help create more permanent, reliable sources of water instead of having to rely on water trucking when a drought hits," she explained. "With these programs we’ll be creating different financial instruments that enable vulnerable households to have access to credit, to have access to different kinds of risk management like insurance.”
 
Ministers at the IGAD meeting are looking to establish indicators for how well prepared the region is to handle the next drought, as well as what needs to be improved before the region has to endure another crisis.