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Record Hunger in Horn of Africa Pushes Development Banks to Step In

With a record-breaking 26.5 million people going hungry in the Horn of Africa, development banks are increasing their humanitarian funding to fill a gap left by traditional donors, a high-level mission said on Tuesday.

Food rations for 7.8 million Ethiopians are due to run out in July due to funding shortages, while neighboring Somalia is on the verge of its second famine in six years.

In an unprecedented move, the World Bank is giving $50 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to distribute emergency food, water and cash in Somalia.

“We are demonstrating not just that we appreciate the kind of pressure that Somalia is facing but the importance of the humanitarian and development actors working together,” said Mahmoud Mohieldin, a senior World Bank official.

Consecutive failed rains have led to widespread crop failures, hurting farmers and livestock herders across the region, many of whom are hungry and on the move in search of grazing, water and work.

The African Development Bank (ADB) has also announced $1.1 billion to combat drought in six countries, mostly in the Horn of Africa.

Officials from the U.N., World Bank, ADB and African Union held a news conference in Nairobi after meeting displaced people in Ethiopia’s Somali region and Somalia’s Gedo region.

The greatest needs are in Ethiopia, where numbers are predicted to rise due to poor spring rains, and South Sudan, where 5.5 million people are short of food, with some areas already in famine, the U.N. says.

“We have both the biggest food insecurity crisis and the biggest displacement crisis this region has ever faced,” said Dirk-Jan Omtzigt, an analyst with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nairobi.

The number of refugees and asylum seekers in East Africa has almost tripled to 4.3 million since 2011, he said, driven by conflict, climate change and economic shocks like falling livestock prices during drought.

In a “Grand Bargain,” struck at last year’s World Humanitarian Summit, donors promised to make their funding more flexible to respond to growing humanitarian crises globally.

The World Bank has started funding humanitarians to deliver aid in countries like Somalia and Yemen, where a rapid response is needed but conflict has weakened governments’ ability to reach needy populations, Mohieldin said.


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