NAIROBI – Yet again, famine stalks the Horn of Africa. More than ten million people are fighting for survival, mainly pastoralist communities in the hyper-arid regions of Somalia, Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. Every day brings news of more deaths and massive inflows of starving people into refugee camps in Kenya, across the border from Somalia.
The immediate cause of this disaster is clear: the rains have failed for two years running in the dry regions of East Africa. These are places where water is so scarce year after year that crop production is marginal at best. Millions of households, with tens of millions of nomadic or semi-nomadic people, tend camels, sheep, goats, and other livestock, which they move large distances to reach rain-fed pasturelands. When the rains fail, the grasses shrivel, the livestock die, and communities face starvation.