Peter Little, CHAINS Project Leader, on the Drought in the Horn of Africa

Abdille Muhamed with his dead cow in Garse Koftu village, 120km from Wajir in northeastern Kenya. Photo by Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN.

“In the Horn of Africa, droughts are natural but famines are man made,” says Emory anthropologist Peter Little, who studies the politics, economy and ecology of the region and leads the Livestock-Climate Change CRSP CHAINS project. “The famine in Somalia is an unfortunate intersection of failed rain, politics and conflict.”

Drought occurs every five or six years in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, which has lacked the control of a central government over much of the country since a civil war in 1991, the effects of the current drought have been greatly compounded by fighting, Little says.

The U.N. has declared famine in two regions of south Somalia where the Islamist group Al-Shabaab has been fighting to maintain control. “A phenomenal number of people have been displaced,” Little says. “People have been forced out of farming and livestock areas and have clustered around towns where there is a little bit of security.”

Fighting disrupts markets and trading, and complicates delivery of food aid. In an attempt to escape the situation in recent months, more than 350,000 Somalis have poured into northeastern Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, which was designed to hold fewer than 100,000 people.

The CHAINS project’s Garissa District site (in northeastern Kenya) borders southern Somalia and the Dadaab refugee camp.  “From colleagues in Nairobi, it seems that the U.S. Agency for International Development  and  the World Bank probably will be pushing for increased development resources(rather than just relief funds) for the region once the current humanitarian crisis subsides,” Little says.

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