Four consecutive seasons of failed rains have ruined people’s lives and livelihoods in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. A record-breaking fifth below average season is now in the offing, which will push needs even higher by the end of the year.

Pastoralists walk huge distances in search of water in Ethiopia’s drought-hit southern Omo region, in February 2022. (Michael Tewelde/WFP)

In an article in the New Humanitarian, Jameel Observatory head Guyo Roba argues that governments and other actors had warnings aplenty but they failed to act in time. This was partly due to political choices – to delay actions. It is also “evidence of the shortcomings in drought monitoring, preparedness, and implementation capacity” at national and local levels.

He calls for improved diagnostic and predictive tools that, for instance, incorporate far more localised data, investment in enhanced capacities to make use of early warning data at the local level, and expanded multi-year flexible funding that all actors can rely on to “improve response readiness, prevent loss of livelihoods, save more lives, and ultimately entrench drought management in long-term planning and development.” Better coordinating the diverse actors in this crowded space that spans development, peacebuilding and humanitarian action is also important.

Extending his analysis in Kenya’s The Standard newspaper, he says that “taking the necessary pre-emptive actions would help government avoid costly lifesaving emergency interventions. Studies have proved the dividend of early action. The investments in preparedness save both cost and time with numbers showing an average of over $2 saved in humanitarian cost for every $1 spent on early action.”

With members of its community of practice, the Jameel Observatory and partners are developing a set of challenge projects that can tackle some of the critical issues holding back effective early action against food and climate shocks in the Horn of Africa.

Contact us for more information or to partner with us: