The international community came together Saturday at the United Nations to find ways to mitigate the current crisis in the Horn of Africa, but also to prevent future ones from happening. At the meeting, the World Bank chief announced nearly $2 billion in new funding for drought and famine related efforts in the region.
The United Nations has been warning about the growing crisis in the Horn of Africa for months. In Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti there are more than 13 million people in dire need of assistance after a devastating drought triggered a famine.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering that the epicenter of the crisis is in Somalia, where 750,000 people are at risk of imminent starvation and four million people need urgent humanitarian assistance.
He blamed Islamic extremists who are battling the Somali government for exacerbating the crisis.
"We have made progress in helping those most in need in Somalia. But it is still not enough," said Ban. "We could save many more lives if we were given free access to areas under the control of Al-Shabab. It is no coincidence that these are the districts where the crisis is most acute. Somalia will never be free of the threat of famine until it has peace and stability."
World Bank President Robert Zoellick addressed the summit via a video link. He announced the institution would increase its support to drought affected Horn of Africa countries from $500 million to nearly $2 billion to address short-term needs and fund long-term recovery.
"I am pleased to announce $1.88 billion in this program," said Zoellick. "It will cover three overlapping challenges: first rapid response to strengthen safety nets; second, to support the economic recovery through restoring livelihoods and jobs; and third, drought resilience to help farmers prepare for what is to come."
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was among the African leaders attending Saturday's mini-summit who warned of the impact of climate change on the continent.
"The current drought and famine is partly the consequence of unmitigated impacts of climate change in our midst," said Odinga. "Adaption to climate change, therefore, needs to be a central theme in all future strategies and actions."
Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn echoed that, saying food insecurity in the region is shifting from settled farm communities to pastoral areas because of the effects of global warming.
"The impact of climate change on pastoral areas is more pronounced, as can be seen from the exceptionally harsh drought this year," said Desalegn. "It is clear now that pastoralism as way of life is fast becoming unviable and addressing the root cause of the problem must start from such a realization."
Regional countries also expressed concern about the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons from the crisis; the high number of fatalities; and the fear that the coming rainy season could compound problems with flooding and water-borne diseases.