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Helping people in the Horn of Africa deal with disasters

13-03-2012 15:06:00

Two local women getting drinking water from the water basin in the Magole area in southern Ethiopia.

Photo: Scanpix/Sofia Wraber
Ethiopian women by the lake

The Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach will Friday be hosting a high-level meeting for a number of international actors to discuss how to help people in the Horn of Africa more and prevent recurring humanitarian crisis.

The Horn of Africa – a region that includes 8 countries, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan , Sudan and Uganda – is a part of the world which often suffers from disasters.  In recent months a drought has struck Somalia and nearby countries affecting more than 13 million people, and although the United Nations has declared the resulting famine to be over, the next crisis is never far away.

More than 2 million people are still affected by the drought, and there are over 1 million people who have been displaced, due to the drought, conflict and other reasons. Villages across the region have barely recovered and yet another period without rain is predicted – again harvests could fail and women and children in particular will suffer.    

Stopping the cycle

To discuss how to stop these crises happening again and again, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach has as part of the DANIDA 50 year anniversary celebrations on 16 March invited for a meeting on the Horn of Africa. The meeting will bring together senior international actors – senior officials from more than 30 countries including regional representatives, and leaders from international organisation such as the World Bank, UNICEF and the World Food Programme as well as the European Commission.

While meeting participants will remain committed to providing basic assistance such a food, shelter, water, etc, that is needed in emergencies, they will also look at ways to help people prepare for, prevent and bounce-back more quickly from disasters – i.e. helping countries to improve their ‘resilience’ to disasters.

The European Union’s ‘SHARE’ initiative

In real terms, this means taking action such as strengthening food security and livelihoods.  The meeting will also discuss concrete proposals – not least a new initiative from the European Union called ‘SHARE’ (Supporting the Horn of Africa’s Resilience). SHARE is a massive new effort from the EU to assist people in the region. It will include significant new funding to help communities recover from the effects of the drought, for instance through nutrition-related interventions with improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene and also significant new funding to support longer-term efforts to increase resilience. It will help to break the cycle of crisis leading to crisis, and will ensure that the countries and people in the region get consistent support to help them help themselves.     

The meeting will also focus on finding longer-term solutions for people who have been forced to leave their homes – i.e. both refugees and people who have been displaced in their own countries. There will also be an emphasis on learning lessons from past experiences and using them better.

Finally, participants – governments, local partners, United Nations agencies and other aid organisations  – will discuss,  and will commit to, working together better to ensure progress is made on resilience in the Horn of Africa.