On the eve of the international emergency summit on the unfolding tragedy in the Horn of Africa, the World Bank today announced it is providing more than $500 million to assist drought victims, in addition to $12 million in immediate assistance to help those worst hit by the crisis.
More than 11 million people in the region have been hit by one of the worst droughts in 60 years, resulting in widespread hunger, deaths, and the loss of subsistence crops and livestock. Rising food prices and deteriorating livestock prices have exacerbated the situation, and the UN is warning of worsening conditions in the coming months.
“Immediate relief and recovery is the first priority, and it is important to act fast to reduce human suffering,” said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. “But we also have an eye on the long term solutions of economic recovery and drought resilience that are key to re-establishing livelihoods and ensuring that droughts don’t take such a heavy human toll in the future.”
The International Development Association (IDA) which serves as the World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest, and the donor-funded Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are making these funds available with more than $500 million coming from restructuring of existing projects and immediate reallocation and fast track processing of new projects, including with funding from IDA’s new Crisis Response Window, subject to approval by the Board of Executive Directors.
This funding could support the following activities: (a) a regional Enhanced Drought Resilience and Livestock Recovery Program to restore livelihood in all countries in the region; (b) scale up – through additional financing – of the Ethiopia Pastoralist Community Development Project; and the Productive Safety Net Program; (c) a possible new agriculture operation in Ethiopia; and (d) a possible operation in Djibouti. Another $12 million will be immediately available in GFDRR financing to rehabilitate rural livelihoods; build drought resilience; assist farmers to resume planting in time for the next harvest through cash transfers, seeds, fertilizer, and farming tools. In Somalia, the support program will be implemented building on previous rapid response operations and partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and on their presence and ability to deliver in Somalia’s most affected areas, where circumstances permit.
The GFDRR funds are also immediately available to support regional drought resilience planning based on a regional needs assessment and developing regional capacity in Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience.
Following decades of recurring droughts in the Horn of Africa, several World Bank-financed projects have established contingency and risk financing mechanisms that will be used to immediately scale up response to drought affected communities.
“The recurring nature of drought and growing risk it poses to social and economic gains in this region calls not only for immediate relief from the current situation, but also for building long term drought resilience,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region.
This World Bank support builds on strong collaboration with national governments, international agencies, regional and non-governmental organizations. This support includes drought impact assessment in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and early livelihood recovery in partnership with the FAO. The World Bank is also supporting countries to develop early warning systems and strengthen drought management agencies that help plan crisis response.
A Wake-Up Call for Agriculture in a Changing Climate
“This food crisis in Eastern Africa is another startling example of why international partners need to put food first,” said Zoellick. “Agriculture is one-third of GDP and three-quarters of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. When a crisis like this hits, millions of people suffer. Agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector. We need a major international effort to address this challenge now. Climate-smart agriculture, including scaled-up research on drought resistant seeds, and cross-border strategies for drought risk reduction are essential over the medium and long term.”
In the longer term, it is important for countries in the Horn of Africa to prepare for recurring droughts that climate change will make more intense. An integrated approach to food security, poverty, and climate change is needed. The World Bank announced in April 2011 that rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty since June 2010. Another 10 percent rise in the food price index could push 10 million more people into poverty. Global action is critical and international partners could help by supporting small holder farmers with seeds, fertilizer, better weather forecasting, and monitoring crop production; creating better ways to get produce to markets; providing food and effective social safety nets for the most vulnerable.
The World Bank Group is boosting agriculture and agriculture-related investment to $6 – $8 billion a year from $4.1 billion in 2008. The past two years of implementation of the Africa Region’s agricultural strategy achieved more than a doubling of finance to the sector, from about $0.5 billion per year in 2008 to $1.2 billion annually averaged over 2009-2010. The World Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan emphasizes increased support in five areas: raising agricultural productivity; linking farmers to markets; reducing risk and vulnerability; improving nonfarm rural employment; and making agriculture more environmentally sustainable, as well as a source of positive environmental services.