At least twelve million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are in urgent need of food assistance following a prolonged dry spell and the expected short rain season. That’s according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Early Warning systems experts. This, even as the World Bank warned that the frequency of droughts in Sub Saharan Africa nearly tripled between 2010 and 2019, with last year being the continent’s warmest since 1910.

In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared the ongoing drought, which has affected at least two million people, a national disaster but international humanitarian assistance has been slow to reach those in need as the world focuses its attention on other crises. Northern Kenya and the devastating effects of a prolonged dry spell are clear. Livestock carcasses dot the dry parched landscape. The Horn of Africa is once again facing a severe drought, less than two years since the last.

“It’s all about recurrence of shocks and until 20 years ago you would have a drought coming into the region on a recurrence of three to five years. It’s true that this has definitely has increased and now we can see a shock every year and in some areas. I look at Somalia, there is a recurrence of a shock every year and in some areas, there are two shocks within the same year,” says Regional Early Warning Expert at FAO, Sergio Innocente.

SABC News Sarah Kimani on the crippling drought:

International, regional and local organisations have sounded the alarm over the hunger situation in the Horn and East African region, as a result of climate change-related drought, a desert locust invasion, and conflict in some countries as well as economic shocks brought about by COVID-19.

“If we only look at Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, we are already handling a caseload of close to 12 million people. We can see temperatures rising and this is affecting the normal cropping patterns of farmers especially subsistence farmers in the region,” Innocente added.

Getting the much-needed humanitarian assistance fast to those affected by the near-constant drought situation in the region is however taking a back burner as the world grapples with other crises putting millions of lives at risk. Regional East Africa group, IGAD has warned parts of South Sudan are at risk of famine.

“If we look at the response plans of Somalia and Ethiopia, those are heavily underfunded at the moment, and then we have Kenya which has been craving attention since the beginning of the year, this is not something that has happened,” Innocente explains.

With forecasts of below-average rains, humanitarian agencies are warning that time is fast running to save lives and livelihoods of affected communities most of them pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.

VIDEO: Ongoing drought conditions in Kenya this year: