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Horn of Africa Countries Agree on Road Map for Disaster Prevention

Countries in the Horn of Africa say they’ll now take a more pro-active approach to reduce the effects of such natural disasters as droughts and floods. The countries are working with the UN World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization.

WFP spokesperson Peter Smerdon, who’s in Nairobi, spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the new effort.

“Six African governments and the United Nations today (Tuesday) agreed in Nairobi after two days of talks on a road map, which is aimed at tackling the root causes before there’s rising hunger across the drought-plagued Horn of Africa. And they also warned the next major crisis, the next major drought crisis, could force more than 20 million people in the region into needing emergency assistance. So, they recognize that the problem is bad and it is only getting worse…. You need to tackle the root causes. So, they’ve come up with a road map, having looked at all the projects underway in six countries in the Horn of Africa. They’ve chosen the success stories and said that these should be scaled up,” he says.

The aim is to improve prospects for long-term development, he says, “so people will be better able to survive a drought without becoming destitute and therefore having to rely on emergency humanitarian assistance.”

Besides drought, Smerdon says climate change apparently has made the region more prone to flooding as well. Without water pens or dams to catch and hold the water, it just rushes away without much benefit. But floods often leave a great deal of damage, as well as loss of life among humans and livestock. The road map calls for various conservation projects, such as tree planting to help deal with floods, erosion and desertification, better veterinary services to prevent disease outbreaks among livestock following floods, agricultural services, dairy development, fisheries, etc.

“Often the problems are very country or location specific. So it’s not one size fits all. There’s not an equation that means this will work everywhere,” says Smerdon.