An unusually long drought in the eastern Horn of Africa, 20 years of war in Somalia, and rising staple food prices combined to trigger one of the most devastating famines in decades. The drought destroyed crops and decimated livestock. The conflict in Somalia created flows of refugees and the poor security situation severely hampered international aid in the country.
Emergency relief and strengthening of livelihoods
In view of the emergency situation, on 17 August 2011 the Federal Council approved a special credit of CHF 20 million, increasing existing humanitarian aid funds for the Horn of Africa to CHF 36.4 million. At the same time, Swiss Solidarity collected some CHF 28 million for Swiss non-governmental organisations providing assistance in the Horn of Africa.
The special credit was used as follows:
- Somalia: More than half of the special credit was used for relief efforts in the hard-hit south of the country. The funds primarily financed projects and programmes to ensure access to food, health facilities, water, sanitary facilities and housing.
- Kenya: Approximately 30% of the special credit benefited refugees and their host communities in Kenya, particularly in the Dadaab refugee camp, whose population had grown to half a million people by early 2011.
- Ethiopia: Swiss Humanitarian Aid used the remaining 17% to fund projects in Ethiopia with the aim of alleviating the emergency situation in the short term and to permanently reduce risks. For example, Action Contre la Faim obtained Swiss funds, among other things, for programmes that protect communities against recurring disasters and the effects of climate change.
Coordination of humanitarian aid
A large proportion of the total budget for the Horn of Africa was earmarked for partner organisations of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations relief agencies for children and refugees (UNICEF and UNHCR), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) received Swiss aid funds. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders Switzerland and Terre des Hommes Lausanne also received financial support.
Because the security situation deteriorated during the course of 2011, some of the scheduled direct actions could either not be implemented or only after a delay. The abduction of European staff members of an NGO from the Dadaab camp as well as of tourists on the Kenyan coast ultimately led to an escalation of the situation. The militant Islamist al-Shabaab group also banned 16 international aid agencies from the deployment area in Somalia. The SDC strengthened its security systems and had to constantly adapt its activities to the volatile and dangerous situation.
Many people are still in need
The hunger crisis began to steadily abate in late 2011 thanks to rainfall and relief efforts. But in southern and central Somalia, 2.3 million people are still in need of assistance. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of people are living under difficult conditions in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Consequently, humanitarian needs are also considerable in 2012 and continue to require targeted support.