Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Across the Horn of Africa at least 36.1 million people have now been affected by one of the most severe and longest droughts in recent history that is expected to continue well into 2023. This includes 24.1 million people in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia and 4.35 million in Kenya. 

Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of starvation and millions more are facing crisis levels of hunger. On top of the harsh impacts of increasingly frequent severe weather and climate change, the region is also grappling with multiple, overlapping crises including conflict, locust infestations and the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Food and fuel prices have also soared because of the war in Ukraine.

The crisis is taking a disproportionate and heavy toll on women and girls who, in some cases, face a triple burden of finding ways to survive, care for their family and protect themselves from sexual violence.

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As resources dwindle and livestock perish across the region, communities are taking extreme measures to survive. Around 1.77 million people have been forced from their homes in search of water, food, pasture, and basic services.  

Women are making perilous journeys with their families to makeshift shelters in formal and informal camps, and face longer distances to fetch water, heightening their vulnerability to rape, abuse and exploitation. Increases in girls dropping out of school, cases of female genital mutilation and child marriage have also become more widespread as families struggle to feed themselves – and marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed. 

Access to basic health services, including family planning and maternal health care, has been severely compromised, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the more than 892,000 pregnant women who will give birth in the region over the next three months. Malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women is also at alarmingly high rates – increasing their risk of severe, if not fatal, pregnancy complications – with women all too often eating last and least. 

UNFPA’s response 

UNFPA is on the ground across the Horn of Africa, working with governments and partners to prioritize the scale up of essential and life-saving maternal health and protection services for women and girls. 

  • Mobile and static health clinics, staffed by midwives and other skilled personnel, will be set up to take reproductive health services to women and girls, including in displacement sites.
  • Referral systems and human resources will be strengthened to ensure pregnant women experiencing complications can access emergency obstetric care
  • Safe spaces, shelters, and one stop centres will be expanded to enable women and girl survivors of gender-based violence to receive medical care and psychosocial support. Staff will also be trained in the clinical management of rape
  • Essential reproductive health medicines and supplies will be distributed to health facilities and hospitals to strengthen the provision of reproductive health care. 
  • Basic hygiene items, including sanitary pads, will be distributed to vulnerable women and girls.


Updated on 14 November 2022