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Oral Statement of Nancy Lindborg - Horn of Africa: The Continuing Food, Refugee, and Humanitarian Crisis

by webeitor — last modified Jan 10, 2013 07:30 AM
Contributors: USAID
Nancy Lindborg's speech on the food, refugee, and humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission & the House Hunger Caucus House Committee on Foreign Affairs March 8, 2012

Original Source

Before I begin I would like to take a moment to offer our deepest condolences on the loss of your friend and colleague, Congressman Donald Payne. There have been few greater friends of USAID than Congressman Payne, and he will be greatly missed. His legacy, however, will live on for years to come.

Chairman McGovern, Chairman Wolf, Chairwoman Emerson, and Members of the Commission, thank you for inviting me to speak with you today on this very important topic. Your continued attention to the crisis in the Horn of Africa is much appreciated. Without your unwavering support, we would not have been able to mobilize this huge life-saving effort.

The U.S. Government has been intently focused on the current crisis in the Horn of Africa since August of 2010, when the early warning was issued. The crisis in the Horn is multifaceted. It is a horrific drought, long-standing conflict, famine, and refugee crisis in one, and it requires a multi-sectoral approach. Our three-prong emergency assistance strategy in the Horn encompasses direct food assistance, cash or voucher and livelihood support where markets are working, and public health support to reduce the spread of preventable diseases, which lead to more deaths than food shortages in a famine.

In Somalia, where twenty years of conflict and lack of governance have taken a heavy toll on lives and livelihoods, al-Shabaab was blocking humanitarian aid from reaching parts of south and central Somalia. By June of last year, thousands of Somalis were arriving in makeshift camps in Mogidishu and the Afgoye Corridor, and some 20,000 people a week were fleeing across the borders to the refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. It was clear that conditions inside Somalia would further deteriorate unless humanitarian aid was allowed in.

When the UN declared famine in early July, our Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was already in the field coordinating with other donors, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations to see what more could be done. We reached out to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and to Turkey to discuss opportunities for joint cooperation and encourage coordination with the broader humanitarian community. We worked with our humanitarian partners to develop innovative ‘light footprint’ approaches that allowed us to provide assistance even in the most restrictive of environments.

This past November, we began to see the data that confirmed our assistance was working, as famine conditions abated in three of the six areas of Somalia previously declared as experiencing ongoing famine. It was welcome news, but easing up on assistance too early would exacerbate the situation so our full emergency efforts continued. Then on February 3—owing to the sustained, massive international aid effort coupled with good rains—the United Nations declared that famine was no longer present in Somalia.

With the support from Members of this Commission and the American people, what we have been able to achieve is impressive. Last fiscal year and so far this year, we rapidly mobilized more than $210 million in aid to save countless lives in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

But we know the crisis is far from over. As world leaders met in London two weeks ago to discuss options for stabilizing Somalia, the UK Secretary of State for International Development convened a side meeting to discuss important humanitarian issues. All of us who were assembled expressed concern that the situation in Somalia remains extraordinarily fragile and requires continued vigilance. The United States will continue to stand by the people of Somalia in their time of need.

The story is much more positive in Ethiopia and Kenya, where our investments made before the drought have paid off. For example, we support Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which effectively kept 7.6 million people from requiring emergency assistance. With the success of the program and because we know that proper nutrition is critical in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, we have provided additional funding for the PSNP to improve the nutrition of women and young children through community-oriented care and practices.

We also continue to pilot innovative approaches to help diversify incomes in vulnerable communities, thereby reducing dependence on the success or failure of a single rainy season. We are helping small farmers get into the beekeeping and honey trade and pastoralists move into milk production and sales. Poor households and communities are accessing micro-loans for the first time and building small-scale trade on the margins of livestock markets. And after learning how to irrigate fields, farmers are getting two harvests a year instead of one. All of these programs make communities less vulnerable to drought.

For those who need emergency assistance, the United States is providing the right nutritional supplements for malnourished children, vaccinations and clean water to prevent diseases that prey on weakened immune systems, targeted food or cash assistance based on people’s needs, and properly timed agricultural inputs that will allow people to plant for the next rainy season.

Our emergency interventions in the Horn of Africa have provided life-saving assistance to 4.6 million of the most vulnerable people, primarily women and children. The United States is the largest donor to the region, providing a total of nearly $935 million in emergency aid to the Horn last fiscal year and so far this year for programs such as:

  • Life-saving food aid for nearly 4.6 million people
  • Emergency health care for nearly 740,000 people
  • Cash and food vouchers for nearly 700,000 people
  • Clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene materials for more than 3.3 million people
  • Livelihoods assistance for nearly 320,000 people

But the gains made by emergency assistance to the Horn are tenuous. As the next rainy season gets underway, forecasters are predicting an increased chance of poor rainfall across the Horn. In a season with average rain, there are areas that do not achieve an average harvest. If the rains are poor, it is highly likely that unmet food needs will increase, particularly in Somalia. We are already looking ahead to plan for both a recovery scenario and a possible continued crisis. This will largely depend on the rains in Kenya and Ethiopia and additional unknowns such as security and access in Somalia.


At the end of March, USAID will co-host a meeting of relief and development partners to mobilize aroundAfrican-led planning for risk reduction and sustainability of development gains in the Horn of Africa. This meeting will provide a venue for greater discussion of strengthening humanitarian and development program linkages, aligning donor programs with country and regional level programs, and ensuring that resource and program alignment help communities and countries build resilience and increase economic growth.

To help countries like Ethiopia and Kenya prevent such crises from recurring, the United States is developing and implementing long-term food security programs through the President’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. Our ultimate goals over the next five years are to help more than half a million people in Ethiopia permanently escape poverty and hunger and improve nutrition for more than 430,000 children. And in Kenya, we aim to raise incomes and improve nutrition for more than 700,000 people.

On the other side of the continent in the Sahel region, we are facing a drought and rising emergency. Our lessons learned from the Horn and previous crises are already being applied to our response effort in the Sahel:

  1. Early warnings should translate into early action;
  2. Emergency programs must be highly targeted, sensitive to functioning markets and focused on building resilience while meeting urgent needs;
  3. Donors must work together to help close the humanitarian-development divide; and
  4. Strategies led by the host country must be a priority.

The United States is changing the way we do business, placing a strong emphasis on building resilience and connecting our enduring commitment to humanitarian work with increased investments in agriculture and nutrition. By working in partnership with other donors and in support of countries dedicated to improving the lives of their citizens, we can help communities move from chronic crisis to a more prosperous pathway.


Thank you. I look forward to answering your questions.

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