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Horn of Africa Hunger Crisis

Fight global hunger

Hunger has reached unprecedented levels globally.

The 2023 Global Report on Food Crises revealed a fourth consecutive year of increased populations facing high acute food insecurity in 2022. According to the report, 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. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “Regardless of how the 2023 rains perform, extremely high humanitarian needs will persist through 2023 while a full recovery from a drought of this magnitude will take years.” A forecast from the Climate Hazard Center warned that the region is likely headed for a sixth poor rainy season this spring, from March to May 2023.

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.

People are already dying of hunger in Somalia. In addition to the worsening drought, increased food prices and conflict, displacement is another major factor in pushing people into famine in Somalia. Humanitarians fear donor fatigue compounded by multiple crises worldwide could reduce the level of funds Somalia receives in 2023.

(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)

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

In June 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the drought in the Horn of Africa as a grade three health emergency, the agency’s highest crisis ranking. The classification marked the first time since the grading system was launched in 2011 when a drought and food insecurity crisis reached that level. A grade three health emergency is a very serious development that requires “a major/maximal WHO response.” The organizational and/or external support required by the WHO country office is considered major and requires the mobilization of organization-wide assets.

On Nov. 7, 2022, UN agencies and partners issued a joint statement calling for immediate action to prevent famine in the Horn of Africa. The statement declared that a humanitarian catastrophe is occurring, and more funds are required to save lives. Famine has become a point of political contention and is deeply divisive in Somalia and other hunger hotspots worldwide.

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 June 2, 2023, IPC and the Cadre Harmonisé recorded 147.28 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
Conflict and violence

According to the WFP and FAO’s June to November 2023 Outlook, organized violence and armed conflict continue to constitute key drivers of acute food insecurity in several hunger hotspots around the world, including Ethiopia and Somalia.

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

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. On Feb. 21, 2023, 10 people were killed in an attack in Somalia’s capital claimed by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group. On Nov. 21, 2022, an al-Shabab gunman killed at least three Kenyan peacekeepers in Somalia. Car bombings are also a semi-regular occurrence in Somalia, contributing to the country’s instability. On Oct. 29, 2022, at least 100 people were killed in two car bombings in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

peace deal signed by the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in November 2022 ended a 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.

According to FEWS NET in their April 2023 East Africa Key Message Update, the cumulative impact of the 2020-2022 conflict in Ethiopia, including the destruction of livelihood systems, continues to drive Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in Tigray. The exclamation point indicates the crisis would likely be one phase worse without current humanitarian assistance. For more, see our Ethiopia Humanitarian Crisis profile.

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.

Humanitarian needs in South Sudan continued to rise in April 2023, driven by conflict, food insecurity, intercommunal violence and public health challenges. Attacks by cattle keepers displaced more than 13,500 people in Western Equatoria State, and fighting between armed factions in Maiwut County displaced some 450 people. Insecurity combined with flooding is expected to hamper trade, markets and humanitarian activities from June to September 2023, increasing food consumption gaps.

Since the start of the conflict in Sudan on April 15, 2023, thousands have fled to neighboring South Sudan, most of whom are South Sudanese returnees. The UN’s Refugee Agency announced on June 7 that South Sudan had received 100,000 new arrivals from Sudan. The people returning to their areas of origin or places of choice will likely return to communities facing food insecurity.

Ethiopia is also receiving thousands of forcibly displaced people from Sudan. Nearly 48,000 border crossings from Sudan into Ethiopia’s Amhara and Benishangul Gumuz regions have been recorded.

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

Drought and climate shocks

The Horn of Africa is 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 forecast from the Climate Hazard Center warns that the region is likely headed for a sixth poor rainy season this spring, from March to May 2023. The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, a regional World Meteorological Organization center, says below-normal rainfall is expected in most parts of the region over the next three months, which “would be an unprecedented sixth poor season for the worst hit countries – Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.”

A study published in April 2023 by a team of scientists from Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom 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.”

In their February 2023 regional analysis, REACH said in northwest Kenya and hard-to-reach districts in Somalia, the data “indicates the impact of the current drought on food security and livelihoods, as well as access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is widespread.”

After multiple below-average rainy seasons, a good start to Kenya’s March to May long rains has provided some relief. However, FEWS NET’s Kenya Key Message Update in March 2023 said high food prices and ongoing drought continue to drive food insecurity. In the pastoral areas, water resources are “yet to recharge and remain below average.” Food prices remain historically high across the country, driven by low local availability, high demand and high global prices.

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.”

The April to June 2022 gu rainfall season was among the top three driest gu seasons on record across most of Somalia. As seen in the map below, many parts of Somalia experienced rainfall accumulation significantly below historical averages in 2022.

Source: FEWS NET

A near-average April to June 2023 gu season rainfall in Somalia is expected “to facilitate the partial recovery of cropping and livestock production conditions.” As Somalia slowly emerges from the drought, FEWS NET said in April 2023 that “it remains vital for humanitarian food and nutrition assistance to rapidly reach the millions of households who remain acutely food insecure. Many households endured the significant erosion of their livelihoods, became destitute, or accrued substantial debts to survive.”

Forecasts had called for a sixth below-average gu/genna rainy season in southern and southeastern Ethiopia, but a change in conditions led to above-average rainfall. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, the 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 in March and April 2023 in Ethiopia and Somalia killed at least 50 people, displaced more than 30,000 families, and destroyed at least 10,000 livestock and more than 51,000 acres (21,000 hectares) of crops across both countries. Ongoing rains in May 2023 severely affected several districts in Somalia’s Jubaland State. The flash floods affected at least 460,470 people.

In FEWS NET’s April 2023 South Sudan Food Security Outlook, the greater Kapoeta area of Eastern Equatoria remains an area of concern due to cycles of drought since 2019. The drought has led to severe water scarcity for humans and livestock and limited livestock production.

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. More flooding is expected in the region later in 2023, partly due to the forecasted El Niño, which will likely drive further displacement, death and disease.

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.”

According to the regional 2023 Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, “Migration in the Horn of Africa continues to be triggered by persistent insecurity and conflict, environmental degradation, harsh climatic conditions, public health emergencies, socioeconomic drivers, and traditional seasonal factors.”

In mid-February 2023, the head of IOM expressed concern about the numbers of women and children migrating from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries through Yemen. He said climate change is a primary driver of people risking dangerous journeys. Most of those displaced in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are women and children.

The drought is expected to keep depleting the resources of host communities, limiting their ability to support migrants along the Eastern Route and driving more people to migrate irregularly. According to the MRP, in 2023, more than 1.4 million people will need humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian partners will target 1,045,832 people, including 403,295 migrants and 642,537 host community members.

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.

Food insecurity and livelihoods

Data from the IPC show more than 5.4 million people in Kenya and 6.6 million in Somalia will experience acute food insecurity through June 2023. About 11 million people in Ethiopia are severely food insecure due to the drought, according to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan. From April to July 2023, an estimated 7.8 million people in South Sudan will likely face acute food insecurity.

Crop and livestock loss driven by the drought and a spike in food prices disproportionately affect subsistence farmers and people living in conflict-affected areas.

In their March 2023 Drought Response in the Horn of Africa Situational Report, WFP said, “Much of the region is enduring abnormally high food prices because of macroeconomic difficulties exacerbated by domestic cereal shortages and global food and fuel supply shocks. Purchasing power and food access are determined by the demographic, social, physical, and policy environments that influence how well households use their resources to meet their food needs.”

A 2022 report from CARE described the widening gap between the number of women going hungry compared to men globally.

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.

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.

Together, Ukraine and Russia export 28% of the world’s wheat and 15% of its corn. In 2023, crop production in Ukraine may decline by 35% to 45% in the next harvesting season, which started in July 2022. The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine varies by country but may be devastating for some, including Somalia.

Somalia, for example, relies on Russia and Ukraine for more than 90% of its wheat supplies. The World Bank said in 2022 that Somalia is one of seven countries globally that face the risk of overlapping food and debt crises, which may expand the impacts there.

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 UNICEF, “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.

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.

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. If adequate funding is provided, it will help stave off the worst effects of the hunger crisis this year, particularly deaths from malnutrition and starvation.

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, there is a need to scale up multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to save lives and prevent the total collapse of livelihoods in the affected counties of South Sudan, particularly those with a high share of populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) acute food insecurity.

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. The humanitarian community uses the term Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) to describe efforts to mitigate this risk.

For example, in Ethiopia’s 2023 HRP, the country’s 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.

In addition to sexual exploitation and abuse, protection risks stem from civilian deaths or injuries due to conflict, displacement and psychological trauma. Particular groups of people are disproportionately burdened by protection risks, including children, women and girls, older people, and people living with disabilities.

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 28 drought-affected districts since 2022. From Jan. 1 to May 28, 2023, 8,987 cumulative cases were reported in Somalia, with 55.3% reported in children below age 5.

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 would like to make a gift to the CDP Global Hunger Crisis Fund, please contact development.

(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.

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email

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/United Nations 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.”

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).

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.


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