UN Central Emergency Response Fund supports anticipatory action in Ethiopia and Somalia

By Julia Wittig, OCHA Humanitarian Affairs Officer

Climate forecasts are predicting unusually dry conditions in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia in the coming months. Crops and livestock will be badly affected. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is providing US$40 million now for anticipatory action in these two countries to ensure that people get help before the situation turns into a devastating food security crisis.

The humanitarian impacts of drought often build up slowly but surely, growing into a devastating crisis that is frequently recognized much too late, even though the warning signs have been there for months.

Since late 2020, delayed and erratic rainfall has affected many parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, resulting in devastating water shortages, including drought conditions in some locations, with widely depleted water reservoirs and loss of pasture and livestock. Simultaneously, the combined impact of locusts, COVID-19, floods and conflict has severely eroded the coping capacity of Ethiopians and Somalis.

An even worse crisis is looming: Several climate forecasts predicted a poor March-June rainfall season and early observations are starting to confirm this. As a result, in Somalia, up to 2.65 million people (21.5 per cent of the population) are projected to face high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC 3 and above) between April and June. In Ethiopia, drought is also projected to drive 12.9 million people into severe levels of food insecurity by the end of June.

“Hunger and deaths begin long before the highest levels of food insecurity. We must anticipate and act now,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned.

To avoid the worst impacts, UN agencies and our partners in both countries are currently implementing anticipatory actions with $40 million in CERF support ($20 million per country). Activities focus on mitigating loss of livelihoods and declines in food consumption, ensuring continued access to water, preventing school dropouts, timely detection and control of disease outbreaks and mitigating protection risks.

Anticipatory action is an innovative approach to humanitarian response, taken to prevent or mitigate potential impacts before the shock of a disaster, or before acute impacts are felt by communities, and based on predictions of how the event will unfold. Working like this leads to a faster, more efficient and more dignified provision of aid, which can also protect hard-won development gains.

This anticipatory approach, which includes pre-agreed trigger thresholds, pre-arranged finance and activities is possible thanks to the collaborative pilot effort among humanitarian partners, together with government bodies and global experts, under the leadership of the Humanitarian Coordinators in these two countries and facilitated by OCHA.

For Somalia, this is the second activation of the anticipatory action pilot. A first activation in June 2020 demonstrated how collective anticipatory action at scale can work, leading to a faster, cheaper and more effective response. For example, we found that an early health intervention reduced disease outbreaks and that the anticipatory rehabilitation and upgrading of boreholes has improved household finances, strengthened mental health, kept livestock healthier, reduced disputes related to water sources, and mitigated displacement.

The anticipatory action this year in Somalia will be complemented with a $13 million allocation from the Somalia Humanitarian Fund and a $7 million CERF rapid response allocation to address the impacts of the severe water shortages and drought conditions.

The anticipatory action allocation in Ethiopia this year will be going to woredas in Afar; Oromia; Somali; and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions, where drought is the main driver of food insecurity.

CERF is one of the fastest and most effective ways to help people affected by crises. Since its creation, it has assisted hundreds of millions of people, with over $7 billion allocated across more than 100 countries and territories.

None of this would be possible without the generous and consistent support of our donors.

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