5 May 2023

Horn of Africa faces worst drought in 40 years

Brooke is currently helping animals and communities in Kenya and Ethiopia, as they experience their worst drought in four decades.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) shows that the drought situation is critical in 22 Kenyan counties. Northern regions such as Marsabit and Turkana are in a state of drought emergency, where 95% of surface water sources have dried up.

Brooke’s team in East Africa has seen the drought effects worsening over the last two years, and the most recent period of drought in Kenya has had severe impacts on communities and their donkeys, including:

  1. Reduced access to water: Water sources such as rivers, lakes, and wells may dry up or become contaminated. This makes it difficult for communities to access safe drinking water for drinking and making food. This means their donkeys go thirsty too.
  2. Limited availability of forage: Vegetation can become scarce, making it difficult for donkeys to find enough food to eat. This can lead to malnutrition and weight loss, preventing donkeys from working and transporting goods.
  3. Increased workload: The fewer water sources there are, the further Donkeys and their owners have to travel.  This can increase their workload and lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
  4. Health problems: Diseases such as anthrax and Rift Valley fever can become more prevalent, which can affect both humans and animals.

“During a normal dry season, communities and their donkeys may be able to cope with reduced water and food sources by using alternative strategies such as rationing water and feeding forage supplements. During a drought however, these strategies are often not enough to meet their needs...which can have significant long-term impacts on both human and animal health and wellbeing.”

Cynthia Ogana, Fundraising and Communications Manager at Brooke East Africa. 

Stephen Kiprop, Communications Consultant at Brooke EA said: “We believe that a holistic approach is needed to combat the effects of drought on vulnerable communities and their livestock. Through partnerships, community engagement, and sustainable interventions, we aim to enhance the resilience of donkey owners and their livestock in the face of drought challenges."

Further North, Brooke Ethiopia has seen that drought has caused 2.2 million livestock to lose their lives, including an estimated 120,000 equines across the country. As a result, the recovery time for pastoral communities and their ability to access food and income is already expected to last up to 13 years.

“We are in the process of developing a proposal for emergency response support for drought affected equines. As a long term solution, we have designed and implement a support programme for equine owners in order to build their resilience in the time of similar crises in our urban intervention areas. In drought periods previously, we were able to protect the equines in targeted areas from death and malnutrition that might have resulted from the impact of the drought.”

Yohannes Kassim, Program Manager at Brooke Ethiopia. 

Animal deaths in the Horn of Africa have seen an all-time high in comparison to previous droughts. The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) reports that an estimated 9.5 million animals have died from drought conditions, with 4.5 million of these livestock relied on by pastoralists and their families, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The drought is also driving communities to migrate in order to find better access to water and pasture for livestock to graze, which can result in conflict arising over the scarce resources. Even then, these new locations are still affected by the drought, and many animals die from making the strenuous journey.

The drought cycle in Africa’s Horn dates back to as early as 1974, growing in frequency and intensity as climate change and environmental degradation worsens. As the sixth consecutive failed rainy season, 22 million people in the region are currently at risk of starvation.