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Horn of Africa Hunger Crisis

Fight global hunger

Hunger has reached unprecedented levels globally.

As many as 238 million people around the world faced acute levels of food insecurity in 2023, according to 2023 Global Report on Food Crises Mid-Year Update. The report revealed that 21.6 million more people faced high acute food insecurity in 2023 than in 2022 (a 10 percent increase). Drivers of acute food insecurity include conflict, economic shocks and weather extremes that are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

The Horn of Africa is a region of eastern Africa. Definitions of the region vary; however, this disaster profile focuses on Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan due to the worsening humanitarian situation and acute food insecurity figures. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) also maintains disaster profiles for the Ethiopia Humanitarian Crisis and South Sudan Humanitarian Crisis.

After five consecutive failed and below-average rains, the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is expanding and deepening. Despite expectations of heavy rains between January and March 2024, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia may see higher temperatures than normal, between 32 to 40 degrees Celsius (89.6 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit).

In 2022, more than 20 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya needed food assistance. To put this figure in perspective, this represented an increase in needs of more than 70% compared to levels recorded during regional food security crises in 2016 and 2017. Households and communities have struggled to fully recover from that crisis.

From March to May 2023, the region saw above-average rainfall, which supported crop production activities and the gradual recovery of livestock production, improving the region’s access to food and income. However, millions experience challenges accessing food and income due to the drought. Despite hopes that the rainfall would bring relief to Somalia, about two in five children there are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition by July 2024. Floods following heavy rainfall have destroyed crops and assets, threatening to push more people into hunger.

(Women in Ethiopia waiting for water to be trucked in. Women and girls walk up to 10 hours to fetch water. Credit: European Union; Silvya Bolliger 2022; CC BY-ND 2.0)

In 2022, the United Nations (UN) and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) issued warnings of catastrophic hunger levels, but the warnings have been largely overlooked. The explosion in needs is outpacing the resources available.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a common scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and acute malnutrition. The scale includes five phases, with Phase 1 meaning there is no or minimal acute food insecurity and Phase 5 meaning famine has been reached. As of Feb. 15, 2024, IPC and the Cadre Harmonisé recorded 157.7 million people in Phase 3 or worse.

Famine is a highly technical classification that meets specific criteria. Famine is a complex problem, but much can be done before hunger becomes a catastrophic crisis, including early action to prevent food insecurity and famine. While short-term relief is needed to save lives, protecting people’s livelihoods and restoring their dignity are also required to help avoid future famines.

In 2011, delayed action by the international community led to 260,000 deaths in the famine in Somalia after only two failed rainy seasons. Targeted investments since then have made systems more resilient, which is one reason why it now requires more consecutive failed rainy seasons to reach famine. However, even resilient systems can only cope with so many shocks. Therefore, it remains critical that funders act quickly and pre-emptively to support emergency, recovery and resilience programming.

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Key facts
  • The Horn of Africa has, in recent years, experienced its worst drought in 40 years.
  • Somalia’s drought surpassed most recent droughts in duration and severity.
  • Data from the IPC show more than 1.52 million people in Kenya will experience acute food insecurity through January 2024, while 4 million in Somalia and 5.78 million in South Sudan will experience acute food insecurity through March 2024. About 11 million people in Ethiopia are severely food insecure due to the drought, according to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan.
  • The Food Cluster reported around 2.6 million people received food assistance in December 2023, and food insecurity is projected to remain severe in 2024.
  • As a result of drought and the effects of a two-year war, almost 400 starvation deaths were reported over the last six months in Ethiopia. Similarly, in March 2023, the Somali government and the UN said around 43,000 people may have died in Somalia in 2022 after several failed rainy seasons. The report is the first official death toll from the drought in the Horn of Africa.
  • More than 13.2 million livestock, which pastoralist families rely on for livelihoods, have died across the region. In Kenya alone, the economic cost of livestock loss is estimated at more than $1.5 billion.
  • Trauma and grief are deeply ingrained in the Somali experience. A preliminary study by the UN, the health ministry and the national university has found that 76% of Somalis have experienced psychological disorders.
  • An estimated 2.7 million children are out of school across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the drought, with another 4.1 million children at risk of dropping out.
  • According to the Action Against Hunger 2023 Hunger Funding Gap report, the UN humanitarian system has a 53% hunger funding gap, and none of the Horn of Africa countries’ appeals for hunger funding were fulfilled in 2022. Upon receiving pledges of just $2.4 billion out of the UN’s $7 billion appeal for the Horn of Africa in 2023, the UN called on donors to “frontload funding” in January 2024 to avoid a catastrophe in the coming months in Ethiopia.
Conflict and violence

A key finding from the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Ecological Threat Report, released in November 2023, was that a 25% rise in food insecurity increases the risk of conflict by 36%. The report also found, “Ecological threats, such as rapid population growth, water risk and food insecurity will be compounded by climate change, causing mass displacement of people and conflict.”

In Somalia, conflict disrupts livelihoods, particularly in central and southern areas.

Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab has stepped up attacks in a show of resurgence since Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s government launched an offensive against the group in August 2022.

From Dec. 9, 2023 to Jan. 19, 2024, ACLED recorded almost 300 political violence events and nearly 726 reported fatalities. In comparison, just six months before ACLED recorded approximately 200 political violence events and 700 fatalities between May and June 2023.

Drawdowns of African Union Transition Mission troops may reduce the Somalia Security Forces’ ability to hold and control areas retaken by the federal government. The result will likely be increased Al-Shabaab attacks. An attack on Sept. 19, 2023, which left seven Somali soldiers dead as the African Union began their withdrawal, caused the UN Security Council to suspend the pull out of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) forces for three months starting in November 2023.

After witnessing extreme events for decades, including war, famine, mass displacement and inter-communal violence, Somalis experience high levels of psychological disorders. A preliminary study by the UN, the health ministry and the national university has found that 76% of Somalis have experienced such disorders. According to Hodan Ali, Senior Policy Advisor, Health and Social Services, for the Office of the Somalia President, “invisible wounds” keep people from engaging in recovery, reconciliation, and civic engagement initiatives.

In Ethiopia, a peace deal signed by the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in November 2022 ended a brutal two-year war that displaced millions and created dire humanitarian conditions in the Tigray region. However, recovery and the resumption of services there will take time as conditions are exacerbated by volatile climate conditions and extended drought. For more, see our Ethiopia Humanitarian Crisis profile.

Humanitarian needs in South Sudan are persistent due to food insecurity, conflict, economic downturn, displacement, climatic shocks, including floods and droughts, and disease outbreaks.

Since the start of the conflict in Sudan on April 15, 2023, thousands have fled to neighboring South Sudan, 80 percent of whom are South Sudanese returnees. As of Feb. 2, 2024, 542,000 people were recorded crossing into South Sudan through Abyei and Upper Nile State. Overall, half of the arrivals are female, and about half are children under age 18.

The interconnection between climate, conflict and food security is more prominent in fragile or developing contexts. Logistic and security challenges often impede humanitarians’ access to affected people. State and non-state actors can obstruct access in the region. Some experts have called for greater emphasis on the root causes of conflicts and the need for greater international cooperation and support for “African solutions to African problems.”

In South Sudan, as a result of recent attacks across the Abyei region, the UN political mission suspended all humanitarian movement until further notice. This greatly hinders plans for relocation and provision of services and assistance to newly arrived refugees from Sudan.


The drought has led to mass displacement across the Horn of Africa. The floods have also contributed to displacement. Somalia is recovering from the 2023 rainy season, where flooding affected the districts of Jowhar, Balcad and the South West state, displacing 14,400 people and destroying crops.

According to the regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa to Yemen and Southern Africa 2024, migration originating in the Horn of Africa is “triggered by insecurity, environmental degradation, harsh climate conditions, public health, emergencies, socioeconomic drivers, and traditional seasonal factors.”

IOM calls it “the busiest and riskiest migration corridors in the world” due to hundreds of thousands of people traveling in an irregular manner, often relying on smugglers to facilitate movement along the Eastern Route through Djibouti and Southern Route through Kenya.

Through December 2023, IOM said although migration continues to be economically driven, more than half of migrants departing from the Somali region of Ethiopia were traveling due to disasters (58%). Concerns were also raised about the number of women, children and unaccompanied children migrating through the Horn of Africa. Most of the displaced in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are women and children.

The drought is expected to keep depleting the resources in host countries, limiting their ability to support migrants along the routes and driving more people to migrate irregularly. According to the 2024 Migrants Needs Overview, more than 1.7 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance in 2024.

According to Save the Children, the drought in Somalia has led to the biggest movement of refugees into Kenya in over a decade. More than 20,000 Somalis, primarily women and children, arrived in 2022, as of early November. These displacement figures mean there is the risk of inter-communal conflict and increased pressure on already limited basic services. The population of Kenya’s Dadaab camp has grown to over 320,000 refugees, putting pressure on already overstretched resources. The severity of the drought is pushing more people to flee their homes in search of safety and provisions.

Drought and climate shocks

In recent years, the Horn of Africa has been experiencing its worst drought in more than four decades. The March to May 2022 rainy season was the driest in the last 70 years. After five consecutive below-average rainy seasons, the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is expanding and deepening.

A scientific study published in April 2023 found that “as a result of human-induced climate change, the combination of low rainfall and high evapotranspiration as unusual as the recent conditions would not have led to drought at all in a 1.2°C cooler world.”

Across the region, drought and other weather extremes, economic shocks and conflict combine to produce devastating consequences for millions. The 2023 Global Report on Food Crises said, “The economic resilience of poor countries has dramatically decreased, and they now face extended recovery periods and less ability to cope with future shocks.”

Between October and December 2023, some parts of southern and central Somalia saw the wettest season on record, causing widespread flooding, displacing 900,000 people and damaging approximately 83,000 hectares of cropland. However, in most areas of Somalia, the plentiful rain during the deyr rainfall season was largely beneficial to the recovery from the historic 2020-2023 drought.

In southern and southeastern pastoral areas of Ethiopia, the above-average March 2023 rainfall allowed for a modest recovery of pasture and water points. However, the heavy rainfall landing on dry soil caused flooding in some of the worst drought-affected areas, damaging infrastructure and agricultural land and driving displacement.

According to Save the Children, flash flooding due to the El Nino weather phenomenon in October and November 2023 killed over 100 people and displaced more than 700,000 people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

In December 2023, WFP warned that the nascent drought recovery “is being swept away by floods. Since the start of the October-December rains, rainfall 140 percent above average has destroyed property, infrastructure, and crops, and washed away livestock.” The rains are expected to continue affecting the region until early 2024.

The prolonged drought has damaged soil, making it challenging to absorb the rain to grow crops. Caroline Wainwright, a climate scientist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, said the flooding does not simply undo three years of drought. In advance of the anticipated El Niño-induced flooding, $15 million was released from the Somalia Humanitarian Fund in early October 2023 to support early action and response.

Early warning systems designed to warn against various hazards is one need that would help with limiting the impacts of climate-fueled disasters in the long run. According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, “Countries with substantial to comprehensive early warning system coverage have one-eighth the disaster mortality of those with limited or no coverage. Sadly, only 40% of Africa is covered by such systems, and even those are compromised by quality issues.”

Food insecurity and livelihoods

Data from the IPC show more than 1.52 million people in Kenya will experience acute food insecurity through January 2024 and 4 million in Somalia through March 2024. The same food insecurity classification system is not available in Ethiopia, and therefore the figures there are likely underestimated.

About 11 million people in Ethiopia are severely food insecure due to the drought, according to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan. South Sudan is expected to see an increased number of people experiencing acute food insecurity, from 5.7 million between December 2023 and March 2024 to 7 million from April to July 2024.

Save the Children said in September 2023, “About two in five children under the age of five in Somalia are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition by July 2024, despite initial hopes that rainfall would bring more relief.”

In December 2023, WFP warned that the devastating floods were likely to worsen food insecurity across eastern Africa.

According to FEWS NET’s East Africa Food Security Outlook for November 2023 to May 2024, “In the eastern Horn of Africa, seasonal improvements in crop and livestock production will generally support improvement in food security outcomes throughout the projection period. However, severe outcomes are expected to persist in much of the region.”

Source: FEWS NET

According to WHO, the food crisis in the region is also a health crisis. In addition to severe malnutrition, a life-threatening condition, there is an increased risk of water-borne diseases due to limited safe drinking water, outbreaks of infectious diseases and decreased access to health services. Around 11.5 million children under five are likely to be acutely malnourished in 2023 with 2.9 million of them requiring treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

In Ethiopia and Somalia, agriculture employs 67% and 80% of people, respectively, and large portions of the region’s farmland are rain-fed. The drought and other extreme weather events continue to affect people’s livelihoods which in turn impact the food security situation.

More than 13.2 million livestock, which pastoralist families rely on for livelihoods, have already died across the region. In Kenya alone, the economic cost of livestock loss is estimated at more than $1.5 billion. Previous experience shows that it takes about five years for a pastoralist family to rebuild their herd after a drought. The region has felt the effects of the war in Ukraine, with supply shortages and rising fuel costs contributing to price increases.

In Somalia, the livestock sector is central to economic and cultural life. The Somalia Livestock Price Bulletin for January 2024 shows the prices for cattle, goats and camel’s milk to be higher in many locations compared to the previous year and the five-year average. The country relies on Russia and Ukraine for more than 90% of its wheat supplies and the impact of Russia’s invasion may be devastating for Somalia. In 2022, the World Bank said Somalia is one of seven countries to face the risk of overlapping food and debt crises.

Source: McKinsey & Company
Impacts on women and children

Families often face desperate choices as the crisis grows, including marrying off their young girls. Marriage reduces the number of people requiring food and may help families obtain a dowry to support the remainder of the family.

According to a June 2022 UNICEF press release, “Girls as young as 12 are being forced into child marriage … In the regions of Ethiopia worst affected by the drought, child marriage has on average more than doubled in the space of one year.” UNICEF says this includes marriage to men over 60 years old. This makes girls more vulnerable to intimate partner violence, including sexual assault, and ongoing poverty.

In January 2024, thousands of people across Kenya took to the streets to call for an end to femicide and violence against women and girls. Since the new year, at least 30 cases of femicide have been reported. According to Africa Data Hub, femicides increased from 46 to 75 from 2022 to 2023.

Additionally, the rates of female genital mutilation have increased dramatically across the Horn of Africa. It increased as much as 27% in one region in Ethiopia.

According to the WFP, “1.3 million pregnant and breastfeeding women in drought-affected areas need nutritional support to ensure the health of themselves and their children.”

The risk of children dropping out of school has increased significantly in recent months. Across the Horn of Africa, 15 million children are out of school, and another 3.3 million are at risk of dropping out due to the drought.

Due to the drought, women and girls are also walking further to obtain essential resources, including water, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence.

According to Save the Children, the drought in Somalia has led to the biggest movement of refugees into Kenya in over a decade. More than 20,000 Somalis, mostly women and children, arrived in 2022 so far.

The East and Horn of Africa region hosts a higher number of female than male migrants, which is a unique characteristic compared to other parts of the continent and to global trends, according to IOM. Women and girls tend to represent the largest share of the refugee population, while men and boys tend to dominate labor migration dynamics.

A two-track approach is required to respond to the urgency of the moment and invest in longer-term solutions.

  • The situation in the Horn of Africa is already an emergency; therefore, donors must act immediately by increasing funding for lifesaving assistance.
  • While funders respond to support immediate relief efforts, they should act with the same urgency to build resiliency at the same time and ultimately break the hunger cycle for at-risk communities in the region.


A report from Education Cannot Wait published in June 2023 said, “Approximately 54% of crisis-affected children worldwide live in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has experienced a multi-million increase in the number of children affected by crises, primarily driven by large-scale droughts in Eastern Africa and the increasing intensity of several conflicts.”

UNOCHA described the severity of the education crisis in the Horn of Africa in these terms: “An entire generation in the hardest-hit areas is being denied access to education due to the drought or the combined effects of drought and conflict, with devastating long-term intergenerational consequences for poverty, health and wellbeing.”

Investing in children’s education and strengthening educational opportunities is critical to mitigate such long-term consequences.

Food assistance

Immediate humanitarian assistance, including cash, food and nutrition treatment programs, is urgently required to mitigate the impact of the emergency and avert famine.

A significant scale-up in assistance in the last quarter of 2022 prevented the minimum thresholds for Famine (IPC Phase 5) from being met, showing that urgent assistance can help. To ease the impact of the war in Ukraine, a deal between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN has allowed for the export of Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs.

However, systemic change and funds are needed to strengthen resilience. In 2011, delayed action by the international community led to 260,000 deaths in the famine in Somalia. Oxfam and Save the Children published a report in May 2022 entitled “Dangerous Delay 2; The Cost of Inaction,” which finds that the world is once again failing to avert catastrophic hunger.

According to the IPC, Somalia needs “timely multi-sectoral support to vulnerable communities in riverine areas to mitigate the potential adverse impact of El Niño-related flooding during the October to December 2023 Deyr rainy season.” In Kenya, improving agricultural and livestock productivity is key.

Some lessons from past droughts have been implemented, including an improvement in early warning systems, years of resilience investments and enhanced coordination. However, responses are still underfunded, and this is likely to persist. Challenges remain, including moving away from responding to acute shocks with lifesaving assistance to anticipating and preventing them.

Anticipatory action, which aims to act before the onset of a predictable shock, is growing in prominence. This early action is faster, more dignified and more cost-effective than traditional humanitarian response. Such pre-emptive humanitarian interventions can save lives and livelihoods. More flexible funding is needed, an opportunity for philanthropy, to adequately prepare for shocks and increase local resilience to hazards overall.

Livelihood support

Improving livelihoods and building resilience are critical. A joint statement from 15 meteorological and humanitarian agencies released on Feb. 16, 2023, says communities will need years to recover. The statement said, “Recovery in cropping zones will also be a challenge, as households have little to no resources left to invest in planting and will require livelihood support to restart activities when favorable rains eventually come.”

As part of their two-track approach, the WFP in 2023 will focus on lifesaving assistance and invest in livelihoods, food systems and climate resilience so that families, markets and communities make resilience gains and create pathways for sustainable recovery.

Funders must act quickly to support emergency, recovery and resilience programming to save lives and strengthen affected communities. Often emphasis is placed on IPC Phase 4 and above, which are described as emergency and catastrophe/famine phases. Within these phases, humanitarian programming and government assistance help return people to lower phases, but only once assets are depleted and people have already died.

More focus is needed on IPC Phase 3 to prevent people from progressing to worsening phases that have catastrophic impacts on lives and livelihoods. Investments made in IPC Phase 3 are most cost effective and help strengthen resilience. Re-establishing assets and livelihoods once they are already lost requires significant time and resources.

Livelihood support may include restoring lost livelihoods, diversifying livelihoods, introducing drought-resistant crops and supporting local market development. The FAO says saving livelihoods saves lives, “but livelihood support is disproportionately underfunded and every USD 1 spent on protecting rural livelihoods can save USD 10 spent on food-related humanitarian assistance later on.”


The number of people forcibly displaced from their homes because of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order is on the rise globally. At the end of 2022, this figure was 103 million people, including refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and others needing protection.

The risk of sexual exploitation and abuse is amplified in crisis, conflict and forced displacement. In addition to sexual exploitation and abuse, protection risks stem from civilian deaths or injuries due to conflict, displacement and psychological trauma. Certain groups of people are disproportionately burdened by protection risks, including children, women and girls, older people, and people living with disabilities. Prevention of and response to violence against women, boys and girls is one of the most underfunded efforts in crises.

This risk extends to exploitation and abuse by humanitarian actors. For example, in Ethiopia’s 2023 HRP, the country’s Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) Network priorities include coordination and integration of PSEA across humanitarian programs, building capacity of humanitarian actors around preventing and responding to any reports, awareness raising and survivor support.

An advocacy note on South Sudan by the Protection Cluster and UN Refugee Agency published in May 2023 emphasizes “the urgent need for increased funding for protection analysis and programming, stand-alone protection activities, mine action programming, and food assistance in areas with critical protection incidents.”

The Global Protection Cluster provides information on active emergencies and resources. All humanitarian operations monitored by the cluster describe psychological/emotional abuse or inflicted distress among the affected populations.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

WASH humanitarian partners reported that before the current rainy season, nearly 25 million people could not access enough water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning or basic sanitation and hygiene across the Horn of Africa, including 10.1 million in Ethiopia, 8 million in Somalia and 6.8 million in Kenya.

Access to water is critical to supporting recovery and strengthening resilience. Examples include supporting water storage, rehabilitating water systems and increasing access to sanitation.

Despite improved rains in some parts of the region, drought persists. While the rains are welcome and provide some relief, flooding is a risk that increases the possibility of vector-borne and water-borne diseases at a time when cholera outbreaks in the three countries continue to expand.

According to WHO, “Since the middle of April 2023, further geographic spread continues to be reported in the Horn of Africa, especially around the Mandera triangle, where borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet and population movement drives transmission across borders.”

In Somalia alone, there has been uninterrupted cholera transmission in 29 drought-affected districts since 2022. As of Dec. 2, 2023, a total of 16,514 cases of cholera, including 43 associated deaths, were reported, with 66% of deaths occurring in children under five.

According to WHO in their April-June 2023 Greater Horn of Africa Situation Report, “Three out of the seven drought-affected countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia) are still experiencing an outbreak of cholera and a significant increase in the number of cases reported in the Mandera Triangle cross-border areas.”

Cash assistance

As with most disasters and emergencies, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

CDP recommends cash both as a donation method and a recovery strategy. Providing direct cash assistance can allow families to purchase items and services that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster toward rebuilding their lives.

In response to the global food crisis, the WFP says that cash provides the opportunity to save and change lives by putting people in charge of buying the essential goods and services they need. The agency sends money to people in drought hotspots to spend on essentials like livestock while keeping the money in-country and circulating in the local economy.

The CDP Global Hunger Crisis Fund focuses on preventing and addressing hunger and malnutrition, building resilience to drought and food insecurity, and supporting longer-term solutions. CDP is tracking organizations that are responding. We are also in contact with and can grant to organizations that are not 501(c)3 entities.

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Philanthropic contributions

If you have questions about donating to the CDP Global Hunger Crisis Fund, need help with your disaster-giving strategy or want to share how you’re responding to this disaster, please contact

(Photo: An internally displaced woman in Somalia receives food. Credit: Karel Prinsloo, WFP via Flickr; CC BY-NC 2.0)


Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Philanthropic and government support

CDP made several grants through its Global Recovery Fund and Global Hunger Crisis Fund in 2022 and 2023, including:

  • $500,000 to Arid Lands Development Focus to provide recovery and build resilience to the hunger crisis in drought disaster-affected communities through accelerated adoption of Survivor and Community Led Response in 10 arid and semi-arid land counties in Kenya.
  • $250,000 to Concern Worldwide to improve resilience capacities among vulnerable households to respond to and cope with the effects of the current drought and future climatic shocks in Turkana County, Kenya. In April 2023, CDP staff visited Turkana County to learn how the ongoing drought has exacerbated the hunger crisis and witnessed how this grant helped return barren fields to successful crop harvests. Another $475,000 grant was made to Concern Worldwide in 2023 to expand on this work in the region, including strengthening economic inclusion through the formation of village savings and loans associations.
  • $250,095 to NEXUS Consortium Somalia to improve household livelihood security and increase the ability to adapt and manage climate risks among drought-affected farmers from marginalized communities in Somalia’s Baardhere and Gabiley districts. Two local nongovernmental organizations will receive subgrants and this grant will also invest in the capacity of NEXUS Consortium by funding two positions and support costs.
  • $750,000 to Mercy Corps to respond to the devastating socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 and the compounding effects of the severe drought in the Horn of Africa, which has led to a food security crisis and potential famine early warning in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
  • $109,471 to Adeso to implement a Survivor and Community Led Response approach in highly food insecure regions of Somalia through issuing small grants to community-identified and community-led projects.
  • $500,000 to the International Rescue Committee to build community and local institutions’ resilience against recurring disasters and food insecurity by improving the capacities of drought and conflict-affected smallholder farmer households (especially women and youth), communities and their institutions to respond to and proactively mitigate disaster risks and adapt to long-term trends of food insecurity.

Given the widespread geography and complexity of the crisis, several government/UN resources and appeals will be used to gather and disburse aid.

Humanitarian agencies called for full funding of the UN’s $7 billion appeal for the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia, during a pledging conference in May 2023. However, the conference received pledges of only $2.4 billion.

On Jan. 29, 2023, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced that the U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing more than $41 million in urgently needed assistance for the people of Somalia. This is in addition to $411 million in USAID assistance delivered in December, bringing the U.S. government’s contribution to more than $1.3 billion since the start of Fiscal Year 2022.

USAID announced on Feb. 27, 2023, that it is providing more than $126 million in additional food assistance to Kenya “as ongoing drought leaves more than four million people in the grips of a dire hunger crisis.” As of Aug. 21, 2023, the U.S. government’s total humanitarian funding for the Horn of Africa response in fiscal year 2023 was $1.44 billion.

On May 24, 2023, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, announced $58.1 million in funding for gender-responsive humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia and Somalia, bringing Canada’s total 2023 humanitarian assistance funding for the Horn of Africa to more than $73 million ($98 million CAD).

The European Union mobilized additional emergency humanitarian aid funding of $3.78 million (3.5 million EURO) on Nov. 29, 2023, in response to the devastating floods in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

More ways to help

As with most disasters, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Understand that recovery is possible in protracted and complex crisis settings: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that there are early and long-term recovery needs too. We know that people who have been affected by shocks in complex humanitarian contexts can recover and improve their situation without waiting until the crisis is over, which may take years. Recovery is possible and funding will be needed for recovery efforts alongside humanitarian funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places and ways that private philanthropy can help that other donors may not: Private funders can support nimble and innovative solutions that leverage or augment the larger humanitarian system response, either filling gaps or modeling change that, once tested and proven, can be taken to scale within the broader humanitarian response structure. Philanthropy can also provide sustainable funding to national and local organizations.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or marginalized populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities. The Council on Foundations provides legal resources through its Country Notes (some components are members-only).


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Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

CHEs involve an acute emergency layered over ongoing instability. Multiple scenarios can cause CHEs, like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, the man-made political crisis in Venezuela, or the public health crisis in Congo.



According to the United Nations’ definition, a “famine” has taken hold when: at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages; more than two people in 10,000 are dying each day (from both lack of food and reduced immunity to disease); and more than 30 percent of the population is experiencing acute malnutrition. 



Drought is often defined as an unusual period of drier than normal weather that leads to a water shortage. Drought causes more deaths and displaces more people than any other disaster.