Ten years on from the 2012 Dangerous Delay report that examined the costs of late response to the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, millions of people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia once again face hunger and famine.

To save lives now, Oxfam, Save the Children and the Jameel Observatory are calling for urgent action by leaders to tackle the catastrophic hunger crisis in East Africa.

Beyond the immediate crisis, we must also improve the ways we predict, anticipate, prepare for, and respond to future food and climate risks.

A new report by Save the Children and Oxfam in partnership with the Jameel Observatory – Dangerous delay 2: The cost of inaction – examines changes in anticipatory action and response in the region.

Despite an improved response to the 2017 East Africa drought when widespread famine was averted, it finds that national and global responses are largely too slow and too limited, they mainly respond to drought impacts rather than manage future risks, and they struggle to take action at sufficient scale.

Key conclusions of the report are:

  1. It is not just about early warning – hunger is a political failure: The warnings came early enough; the systems developed over the last decade are capable of preventing crises, but only if they have sufficient resources and access to the affected population, and support from political decision makers to act on the warnings.
  2. Still responding to crises not managing risks: Despite some progress and cause for optimism, governments, donors, and agencies still only scale up action when the crisis has hit. Waiting and delay are unacceptable when the warning signs are visible so much earlier and when we know all the benefits – both financial and in terms of human lives – of acting pre-emptively.
  3. Underinvestment in tackling underlying chronic vulnerability and preparing for climate risks: While much progress has been made in developing better systems over the past decade, there has been underinvestment from both governments and donors in addressing food insecurity and the climate crisis, including investment in adaptation programmes that support the most vulnerable. The climate crisis is exacerbating needs and multiplying risks.
  4. Local actors lead anticipatory action: As testament to the effectiveness of early action, numerous case studies show that local actors prepare and take action to manage risks well ahead of national or international bodies. However, there have not been concerted efforts to connect and support locally-led early action, nor is sufficient funding flowing to local organizations to respond at scale.

Guyo Roba, Head of the Jameel Observatory, says that “donors, development agencies, governments and the private sector must work together with affected communities to prepare and respond to risks, rather than wait for crises to spiral out of control.”

The report recommends changes in both the systems around anticipatory action and how it is financed. This includes more direct funding to local and national organizations, consultation with community leaders, increased coordination between climate, development, humanitarian and peace-building actors, and a significant expansion of shock-responsive social protection systems and anticipatory action. Crisis modifiers and contingency budgets must be increased, but also simplified to allow rapid disbursement of funds. Flexible, reliable, multi-year funding remains key, as does the genuine inclusion of women in decision making on responses at local, national and international levels.

Download the report including summaries in Somali and English

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