There are at least 18 million people in East Africa without enough food to eat because of one of the most severe droughts in the region’s recent history. According to OCHA, people needing humanitarian help include 7 million in Ethiopia, 4 million in Kenya and 5 million in South Sudan. People are already dying and the threat of a large loss of life is increasing each day unless immediate action is taken.
The drought has been caused by significantly below average rainfall in the region. Many water holes have dried up and arable land that pastoralists have relied on to feed their cattle has become scarce. This has meant that many pastoralist families have lost their livestock - a vital source of income - because they have not been able to find food for them. Some are also being forced to take desperate measures to survive including selling of assets, taking on debt and/or fleeing to displacement camps. The impact of the drought has been further compounded by inflation in food and fuel prices, in part due to the war in Ukraine. This drought follows four consecutive seasons where there has been hardly any rain and little chance for people to recover. This ongoing situation has put a strain on people in the region, drastically reducing their resilience to today‘s emergency.
The effect of the drought on older pastoralists is far-reaching. They play a vital role within families, communities, and society and are instrumental in improving the resilience of families in the region during droughts. When there are droughts, their role in caring for children increases as younger adults migrate to urban areas in search of work or move further distances to find land for their herds to graze. However, older people also face their own significant risks, including reduced food intake, which can rapidly affect their health and wellbeing. Challenges with mobility in older age also brings challenges to access the lifesaving services and support available to them and their families.
HelpAge International and the Humanitarian Development Consortium (HDC) carried out a Rapid Needs Assessment to understand the situation in the region and shape future programming tailored to the specific needs of older people. It is based on interviews with 1,191 older people who were interviewed between 27 April to 6 May 2022 in Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan.
Source: HelpAge International