The current food crisis in the Horn of Africa is one that has been slowly building over the last few years. Several factors have made it increasingly difficult for the people of the region to have access to sufficient food. After nearly three consecutive years of poor rains and drought conditions, people have been suffering from chronic hunger, as they try to cope. The fragility of life has been rendered all the more precarious by rising food costs and conflict, particularly as livelihoods are destroyed by ruined crops and dying cattle.
Development and Peace has a long history in the region, consistently responding to food crises that have afflicted vulnerable communities there. Last year, we had already begun to respond to the deteriorating situation in the Horn of Africa by supporting food projects in both Somalia and Ethiopia.
Sustaining Livelihoods in Somaliland
Somaliland lies in the northeastern part of Somalia and is a sovereign region of the country. The area is less affected by the conflict and insecurity that is occurring in the rest of the country. However, the people are not immune to poverty and the difficulties of cultivating crops for their livelihood. In addition, thousands of displaced Somalis have taken refuge in Somaliland, further placing a strain on available food. It is estimated that 25% of the population in the area are in crisis.
Water is crucial for these communities to thrive and Development and Peace has helped to ensure that they have better access to this vital life source. In collaboration with Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Luxemburg, last year Development and Peace provided support for projects so that 35,000 people could have improved access to water. This was done through various means, including the construction of berkads, which are local rainwater storage tanks.
Berkads have been in use for over 60 years in Somalia, but to improve their efficiency, Development and Peace helped communities build roofs for these shallow wells as a way to prevent evaporation and contamination of the water. This is particularly important since many households sell water to nomadic tribes as a means of making a living.
In addition, latrines were built, water purification techniques were introduced in several communities and people received information on how to prevent and treat cholera, which is common in areas where water can be easily contaminated.
Helping the most vulnerable in Ethiopia
Development and Peace in collaboration with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank also organized activities in Anchar Woreda, one of the poorest and most remote areas of Ethiopia, to respond to a growing number of cases of malnutrition there, particularly in children. The most vulnerable households were identified through village committees so that aid could reach those who needed it most urgently. Eventually, over 1,100 households received local food items, such as sorghum and oil, which helped close to 5,000 people traverse through one of the leanest periods and be able to return to the fields in health for the next season.