Underdevelopment and Poverty in Africa Need to be Countered to Reduce Disaster Vulnerability
The UN special humanitarian envoy for the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik, has urged governments and aid agencies to address the issues of underdevelopment and poverty, which exacerbate people’s vulnerability during natural disasters, such as the prolonged drought that has destroyed the livelihoods of millions of people in eastern Africa.
An estimated 8 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of humanitarian assistance because of the extended drought. A large share of the estimated 25 million pastoralists the Horn of Africa have lost all or most of their livestock due to lack of water and pasture. Given the magnitude of livestock losses, full recovery will likely take years or even decades.
Although recent rainfall in some of the hardest hit areas had mitigated effects of the drought, precipitation had led to flooding, loss of already weakened livestock, hindered access to affected populations, and increased the risk of waterborne diseases.
- Djibouti is experiencing its fourth consecutive year of drought, and its population's capacity to cope has been seriously eroded due to widespread poverty and lack of resources.
- Ethiopian pastoralists affected by the drought told Bondevik that they most desired recognition and appreciation of their lifestyle.
- Eritrea is trying to reduce its dependence on humanitarian aid. The number of NGOs working in the country has shrunk from 37 to 13, and in July 2005, the U.S. Agency for International Development—Eritrea’s largest donor of food aid—was asked to stop operations.
- In war-scarred Somalia, Bondevik stressed the importance of improving security to enable humanitarian agencies to reach those affected by drought, but he urged the international community to stop regarding Somalia as merely a failed state and to acknowledge reconciliation and rebuilding efforts.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Horn of Africa: Invest in Development to Reduce Drought Vulnerability - UN Envoy,” IRIN News, 2 May 2006.