It was a Thursday like no other, in the distant future of May 25, 2023. The world had become a place of chaos and despair, a reality that was amplified by the news of yet another humanitarian crisis. Adla Massoud reported on the dire situation in the Horn of Africa, where drought had ravaged communities and left millions hungry and desperate.
Young boys, skin taut and bones protruding from their frail bodies, trudged through the sand, pulling containers of water from a well. The heat of the sun mercilessly beating down on them, they shuffled wearily back to their huts, filled with a sense of hopelessness. It was a scene that had become all too familiar in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
In a desperate attempt to stem the tide of suffering, the United Nations called for a donor conference to raise funds for aid operations in the region. The world body made a staggering plea for $7 billion, but the response was abysmal. The conference yielded only about $1 billion, a mere fraction of what was needed to bring relief to those in crisis.
While the United Nations humanitarian body expressed gratitude for the funding, they were quick to highlight that the situation remained dire. The funds were a step towards averting famine, but not enough to address the acute food insecurity that nearly 32 million people in the Horn of Africa faced. It was perhaps the most severe drought in four decades, and millions were at risk of dying.
The total amount raised now stood at $2.4 billion, including the $1.4 billion they had already received from the United States. But this was a far cry from the $7 billion needed to provide adequate relief to those affected by the drought.
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, was clear in his message. He pointed out that only 20% of the UN’s regional humanitarian response plan had been financed to date, and called for immediate action to prevent the situation from worsening.
If more funding wasn’t forthcoming, emergency operations would grind to a halt, and people would die. It was a bleak reality that loomed over the conference, a haunting reminder of the fragility of human life and the urgent need for global action.
David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, spoke about the role of climate change in exacerbating the crisis. He noted that man-made climate change had increased the likelihood of drought in the region by a staggering 100 times. Such sobering statistics only added to the complexity of the humanitarian situation facing the Horn of Africa.
Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, outlined her country’s “strong partnership” with the affected countries in the region. The Emirates had contributed $1.6 billion in aid over the past five years. This year alone, they had allocated $20 million to assist with humanitarian and stabilization programs in Somalia. Such long-term resilience-building initiatives were crucial to ensuring the continued survival of communities facing such crises.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s top envoy to the UN, announced an additional humanitarian aid package of nearly $524 million for the Horn of Africa, bringing the total US contribution for fiscal year 2023 to $1.4 billion. It was a step towards providing the help that was desperately needed, but it was still a far cry from what was required.
The conference ended on a note of somber reflection, a poignant reminder of the fragility of human life, the true cost of inaction, and the need for global action to address such crises.
Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that the UN had raised $2.4 billion through the donor drive. We regret the error.