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Horn of Africa: bulletin No. 01

03-03-2006 Operational Update

Drought in the Horn of Africa - latest report on ICRC activities in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya

©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00082 
Bakool region, near Hudur. A dried out well. 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00078 
Hudur, Bakool region. A family without income or food because of the drought. 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00077 
Bakool region, Elberde district. Women and children wait for an ICRC food distribution. 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00068 
Bakool region, Elberde district. Food being distributed to the displaced and poor livestock farmers. 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00092 
Bakool region, Bara Brio. The ICRC distributes water. 
©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00089 
Région de Bakool, Bara Brio. An ICRC water delivery. 
  ©ICRC/P. Yazdi/so-e-00087    
  Bakool region, near Hudur. A woman loads her camel following the distribution of water by the ICRC.    

The drought continues to take its toll in the Greater Horn of Africa. The worst affected areas remain in southern Somalia, south-eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya, where the number of people in urgent need of assistance is constantly growing.

The ICRC is especially concerned about people in Somalia because the drought is compounding what was already an appalling humanitarian situation there. The country has endured the debilitating effects of 15 years of chronic armed violence and lawlessness. Inter-clan conflict has weakened the population's ability to cope; thousands of families are displaced within Somalia.

In this precarious situation, the ICRC is one of the few organisations that can reach the most vulnerable people in conflict-affected communities in isolated, rural areas. In partnership with the Somali Red Crescent Society and in coordination with other humanitarian actors, the ICRC will bridge the gap until the rainy season in April and the harvest in July by providing food, water and livelihoods support.

This bulletin gives an update on the ICRC's response to the current drought crisis in the three countries affected.




 Situation analysis  


The drought mainly affects the Gedo region, th e lower and middle Juba and parts of the Bay and Bakool regions as follows:

  • major water sources are either completely dried up or seriously low in quantity and quality (saline and/or polluted due to lack of protection)

  • there is very little grazing land available for livestock

  • livestock, particularly cattle, is dying. In some areas it is feared that up to 80 per cent of livestock may die.

  • a serious failure in cereals/crop production

  • a drastic weakening of purchasing power and an increase in food prices because of shortages

  • an unusual movement of people towards the riverine areas of the middle and lower Jubas

The situation in the Lower Shabelle region is slightly better than in the other drought-affected areas. The livestock is still in good condition but the market prices for cereals are rising despite the fact that there was a harvest last season. Agro-pastoralists are moving towards riverine areas. Armed clashes in the region have caused additional displacement. The internally displaced are among the most adversely affected by the drought as they usually leave their belongings behind and become dependent on the family and clan members hosting them.

 ICRC response  

 Food distributions:  


  •  Bakool region: (11-18th of February) Distribution of 2 half rations of food for February and March to 8,000 families.

  •  Bay region:    (20-25th of February)   Distribution of two half rations of food for February and March to 3,000 families.

  •  Gedo region:    (18-25th February) Distribution of 2 half rations of food for February and March to 6,000 families

(One full food ration contains: 12 kg maize, 4 kg beans, 2 litres Soya oil.)

Distributions will continue until the next harvest in July and possibly be carried out in other districts in Bakool, lower Shabelle and the central region.

More than 120,000 people in need are benefiting from this assistance.


De-stocking is the purchase of animals (mainly goats and sheep) from pastoralists while they are still in fair condition and their slaughter. The meat is either distributed fresh to vulnerable people in the area or air-dried to transport to areas where a lack of protein has been observed in people's diets.

  •  South and Central Gedo region  :  (5 -20th January) 5,000 animals were slaughtered by Somali Red Crescent Society volunteers assisted by animal health workers of the organisation Véterinaires sans Frontières. 10,000 families (mainly internally displaced people and destitute families who have lost all of their livestock) benefited from this intervention, receiving one quarter of a goat each.

In all districts of the Gedo region the de-stocking of 20,000 animals is currently going on, benefiting 20,000 families, with one goat each.

  • In Bakool region, a similar operation has been underway since 30th January. The ICRC aims to slaughter up to 5,000 animals for some 5,000 internally displaced and destitute families.

 Improving access to water:  

  • In Bakool, Bay, Gedo, Lower and Middle Jubba the ICRC is currently rehabilitating boreholes, hand-dug wells and rain water catchments. It also supplies water, drums and other essential material, to more than 100,000 people.


 Situation analysis  

Erratic rainfall over the last couple of seasons has led to a humanitarian crisis in parts of the Somali Regional State (SRS) in south-eastern Ethiopia, similar to the situation in neighbouring Somalia and Kenya.

Livestock is mainly affected and therefore the livelihoods of nomadic people, especially in the southern parts of the SRS. The terms-of-trade – livestock versus cereals - has undergone a dramatic change over the last few weeks with animals quickly losing their value and grains becoming increasingly expensive and scarce for pastoralists. Entire families are in search of pasture for their animals all over the region; water points often being the limiting factor for such widespread movements. Most grazing areas in the region are exhausted.

Abnormal concentrations of populations and livestock is less than expected, with people choosing to move back to their places of origin and trying to survive there, albeit with considerably smaller herds, lost to the drought. Human health is deteriorating as well. Signs of malnutrition and an increase in some diseases have been observed in the south with a serious risk of spreading towards northern areas in the near future.


 ICRC response  


The ICRC has stepped up its ongoing activities in areas where it is already present and expanded to some new areas severely affected by the drought, such as Bare (Afder zone), the region southeast of Gode, along the Shebelle river, both up and down stream and the region north of Gode up to Garbo.

In partnership with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, the ICRC is responding to the crisis through a variety of interventions:

 Improving access to water (currently going on):  

  •  Setting up water storage facilities at the boreholes in Bare town.

  •  Improving access to water at 15 distribution points by installing bladders and onion tanks around Bare.

  •  Water trucking to temporary storages in 15 locations around Bare.

  •  Water trucking to fill storage facilities along the road Gode-Hargele.

  •  Support to water trucking of Gode and Hargele administration with four bladder tanks.

 Food distribution:  

  •  4,000 families in Amadin, Dubo and Digino around East Imi each received a monthly food ration (maize, haricot beans and oil). They had been displaced due to the conflict in Est Imi.

 Improving access to health care for the population in Gode and Afder zones:  

  •  Supporting existing health structures by supplying essential drugs and medical items (in Bare, Hargele, East Imi, Gudis, Laab, Abakorow).

 Veterinary treatment in the districts Bare (Afder) and East Imi (Gode):  

  •  Treatment of 20,000 animals for internal parasites, ticks, trypanosomiasis, and respiratory diseases.

  •  Focus on breeding and young stock of sheep, goats, cattle and camels.

 Supporting agriculture along the Shebelle River: Districts East-Imi, Gode, Kelafo, Mustahil:  

  •  Repairing 41 water pumps and supplying fuel and spare parts for irrigation schemes.


The Kenyan government has declared the drought a national disaster and has appealed to the international community to help assist 3.5 million Kenyans in the most affected northern and north-eastern areas of the country.

In this context the Kenya Red Cross Society, the country's national disaster response organisation, has stepped up its activities to assist the victims of the drought. Its emergency response includes, among other operations, food distributions, water trucking and animal off-take.

The ICRC is supporting the National Society's efforts by making 6 trucks and trailers available for it to transport relief assistance to people in need. An ICRC Water and Habitat technician has also been made available to the Kenya Red Cross.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Nicole Engelbrecht, regional media delegate, ICRC Nairobi : tel.  +254 20 2723 963,  mob. +254 722 51 27 28  

 Pédram Yazdi, communication delegate for Somalia, ICRC Nairobi : tel. +254 20 2723 963,  mob. +254 722 51 81 42  

 Patrick Mégevand, communication delegate for Ethiopia, ICRC Addis Ababa : tel. +251 11 551 8366, mob. +251 91 148 0921  

 Leigh Daynes, ICRC press officer for Africa, ICRC Geneva : tel. +41 22 730 2271, mob. +41 79 217 3217