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19 January

Climate change in the Horn of Africa - the forgotten crisis

The consequences of the climate crisis are now more than clear in the Horn of Africa. It has been the worst drought in 40 years for months. Women and children are suffering in particular. But the Western media hardly addresses the crisis.
The current drought in the Horn of Africa clearly shows: The climate crisis is not a crisis of the future but is already ...read more
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19/01/2023

Climate change in the Horn of Africa - the forgotten crisis

The consequences of the climate crisis are now more than clear in the Horn of Africa. It has been the worst drought in 40 years for months. Women and children are suffering in particular. But the Western media hardly addresses the crisis.
The current drought in the Horn of Africa clearly shows: The climate crisis is not a crisis of the future but is already felt and life-threatening today. After the fifth consecutive rainy season, the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Kenya are currently experiencing the longest and most severe drought in 40 years, according to the World Weather Organization of the United Nations (WWO).

In addition to the consequences of the climate crisis, the current situation in the Horn of Africa is exacerbated by local conflicts, global inflation and grain shortages – triggered by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Before the war, Somalia alone obtained 90 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Even now, a small number of auxiliary ships are still arriving, but that is far from enough. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food prices reached record highs in 2022 – with serious consequences.

Several million people are currently threatened by famine in the Horn of Africa. They cannot grow grain because of the drought, their cattle die. Water shortages lead to poorer sanitary conditions. Outbreaks of cholera and diarrhoea are on the rise, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More and more people are forced to leave their home in search of water, pasture, health care.

But in Western industrialised countries such as Germany, there is hardly any report of the historical drought and famine. Instead, people are currently looking at the snow-free ski slopes in the Alps – also a consequence of climate change. The long-lasting drought in eastern Africa, on the other hand, is forgotten.

Our view, especially of politics and of the media, must urgently be directed more toward the global south. This is because the world's poorest countries and communities are already paying the price of a climate crisis for which they are least responsible. In contrast to the wealthy western industrialised countries, countries like Somalia are responsible for only a fraction of the world's CO2 emissions. But these countries are particularly affected by the consequences of the climate crisis – due to their geographical location, poverty and inequality – according to the 2022 World Climate Report. People on the ground often lack infrastructure and resources to protect themselves from natural disasters.

Women and children in particular are most affected by the consequences of the climate crisis, as the current drought in East Africa shows. UNICEF estimates that more than 20 million children in the Horn of Africa are at risk of severe hunger, thirst and disease. The figure has doubled in just five months and will continue to rise, estimates suggest.

According to UNICEF, child labour and child marriage are increasing due to the climate crisis. It has already been shown in past droughts in South Sudan and Ethiopia that more and more girls were sold into marriage, for example in exchange for cattle. The reason is that their families are increasingly facing financial difficulties due to climate disasters.

Gender-specific violence is also increasing as the climate crisis progresses. For example, as more and more water points dry up, women and girls have to travel further ways to get water, and thus become more often victims of sexual assault. In addition, there is poor health care in the event of natural disasters. UN Women Organization UNFPA reports that in Kenya alone, around 134,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women are currently acutely malnourished and in need of treatment.

The fact is that extreme weather events, such as the drought in the Horn of Africa, will occur with every tenth of a degree of warming more and more likely. Current forecasts already indicate a sixth rainy season in a row in East Africa from March to May, putting even more women and children at risk. It is a crisis that must not be forgotten further in politics and by media professionals, especially in the Western industrialised countries. The wealthy industrialised countries of the Global North, with their far too high CO2 emissions, have a responsibility to implement more climate protection and to drastically reduce greenhouse gases.

Climate change is a global crisis. The effects will also increasingly be felt in the western industrialised countries. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, droughts, water scarcity, floods, heat stress and storms will continue to increase – also in Germany. Coastal regions will be threatened by sea-level rise, and economic growth will decrease globally. In a study from 2018, the World Bank also calculated that 140 million climate-related refugees were in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America alone by 2050. So the drought in the Horn of Africa is only a fraction of what we will be facing globally. It's time to look at this.


Elena Matera, freelance journalist / political and life scientist