Ireland is pledging an extra €3.2 million to the Horn of Africa in an attempt to help avert what has been described as a “humanitarian catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen for decades”.
Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid Colm Brophy, who has recently visited northern Kenya and South Sudan, said the unprecedented drought has left millions of people without any means to provide for themselves.
Up to 22 million people on the peninsula in the east of the continent, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, are at risk of starvation after several rainy seasons failed, killing millions of livestock and destroying crops, the UN has said.
Amid a threat of widespread famine, already more than 1 million people have been forced from their homes in search of food and water.
Of the additional funding, €1.5 million will be provided to Trócaire, Concern, Goal, Oxfam Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Plan International Ireland and World Vision.
The money is earmarked for targeting the worst-affected in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Another €500,000 will go to Unicef to provide food to severely malnourished children under the age of five in Kenya. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will get €1 million to improve farming in Somalia, while €200,000 will go to agriculture projects in Kenya, through the Africa Agri-Food Development Programme.
“I visited health clinics and saw severely malnourished children,” said Mr Brophy.
“Listening to their mothers was heartbreaking. Malnutrition rates in these clinics have doubled since February and are going to worsen as the drought continues.” Without urgent international help, the Horn of Africa is facing a “humanitarian catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen for decades,” he added.
“Ireland has already allocated €74 million in direct humanitarian funding to the region over the last 18 months. This additional funding is a further sign of Ireland’s commitment to tackling urgent need in the region.”
Mr Brophy said he witnessed on his week-long trip how Irish funding is “keeping people alive, but the crisis is outpacing the current international response”.
“We urgently need our international partners to step up to save lives,” he added.