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UK boost to fight droughts, floods in East Africa

By Paul Jimbo

The United Kingdom has announced a new package of support to countries in East Africa affected by extreme drought and flooding.

Minister for Africa Vicky Ford, says the deal seeks to benefit almost a million people across East Africa.

“The £17 million support package will provide vital assistance to almost a million people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia who are facing the worst drought in decades, and in South Sudan who are suffering widespread flooding for a third consecutive year,” Ford says in a press statement to Juba Echo.

Minister Ford made the announcement in Kenya as part of a three-country East Africa visit.

In South Sudan, teams from the British Embassy Juba regularly travel throughout the country, including to crisis-affected areas to assess the situation and decide how to respond to widespread humanitarian needs.  

The country is facing an unprecedented third year of major flooding which has affected over 800,000 people, many of whom remain at risk due to food insecurity or a lack of decent water and sanitation.  

This is particularly true in places like Bentiu where over 100,000 displaced persons are living in extremely difficult conditions, highly vulnerable to disease.  

“Providing what we know works in the form of much needed water and sanitation in Bentiu as well as food for around 60,000 people,” the statement read in part.

The announcement today of an additional £3m funding for flood response means that the UK will be able to work alongside partners such as WFP and IOM to respond to some of these immediate needs.

 “The UK’s commitment to supporting our partners in East Africa is unwavering and we know that early action now can prevent mass loss of life. This funding package will provide vital assistance to almost a million people across the region, helping those affected to access clean water and healthy food,” he said.

Extreme weather events associated with climate change are worsening pre-existing drought and flood cycles and ruining harvests. Poor governance and ongoing conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia are exacerbating the impact of these events by displacing vulnerable communities, destroying livelihoods and limiting access to humanitarian assistance.

More than 6.4 million people are estimated to require food assistance this year in drought-affected regions of Ethiopia. In South Sudan, extreme flooding paired with ongoing violence has affected 835,000 people, including by pushing more than 350,000 people from their homes.

According to the UK minister, the funding is expected to support almost 500,000 people in Somalia to access clean water and afford food supplies, as well as providing 100,000 people in South Sudan and 26,000 children in Kenya with a combination of food assistance, water and hygiene supplies.

Minister Ford said, “For countries in East Africa, climate change is not a future problem – it is driving a humanitarian emergency right now”.

He observed that catastrophic droughts and floods, paired with ongoing conflicts and poor governance in Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia, are creating a perfect storm in East Africa which risks pushing hundreds of thousands of people into famine.

The UK is moving quickly to provide support as experience has shown that early, preventative action is vital to avoiding mass loss of life.”

Minister Ford said in Somalia, approximately half the population require life-saving aid due to the ongoing drought. 

Drought on a similar scale in 2011 led to 260,000 deaths. In Kenya the number of people in dire need of food has risen to almost 3 million.

The UK is a long-standing supporter of Africa’s adaptation to climate change, with around half of the UK’s £2.7 billion adaptation budget between 2016 and 2020 spent in Africa.

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