What is UNDP doing to Respond to the Horn of Africa Food Crisis?

Sep 19, 2011

After consecutive seasons of inadequate rainfall, countries in the Horn of Africa are facing the worst drought in 60 years – leading to the largest food crisis in 20 years, and the world’s first famine of this century. UNDP is engaged with humanitarian actors in the region as an essential part of the response, addressing underlying factors of livelihoods and governance.

The magnitude of human suffering is alarming. Millions in the region are facing severe food shortages. Disproportionately affected are children –their mortality levels are truly shocking. The impact of the drought is exacerbated by high food prices and limited coping capacity of vulnerable populations. Access problems persist in Somalia and there has been a significant increase in refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, leading to overcrowding of existing refugee camps.

The increasingly complex situation requires a scaled-up international response to address immediate humanitarian needs, quickly restore productive assets, and mitigate conflicts to prevent further destabilization in the region. In order to break the cycle of drought, food and livelihood-insecurity, it is critical to invest in longer-term measures which help build the resilience of affected populations.

UNDP’s approach

While droughts cannot be avoided, famines can. UNDP firmly believes that investing more effectively in reducing poverty and building resilience is essential to help those affected to break out of the cycle of disasters. Focusing on restoring livelihoods and productive assets as quickly as possible will ensure a faster recovery. 

UNDP brings expertise in the tasks of early recovery, building resilience, and adapting to the ravages of extreme climatic conditions. In all its work, UNDP focuses on providing support to the most vulnerable. UNDP also places importance on gender equality and women’s empowerment and the crucial role women play in ensuring food security. The organization has well-established Country Offices and delivery mechanisms already in place that support disaster and conflict management, local governance, management of natural resources, and sustainable livelihoods for a viable economic recovery. 

In the short term, UNDP is focusing on rapidly restoring people’s livelihoods — providing opportunities for local economic recovery as early as possible; and increasing security and preventing conflict.  In the medium and long-term, UNDP will keep working with partners to redouble efforts to ensure sustainable food security in the region – through multi-year and multi-sectoral disaster risk reduction programmes and economic and livelihood support initiatives; supporting local peacebuilding; and strengthening institutions for long-term economic recovery and development.

Click here to view UNDP's funding priorities to respond to the Horn of Africa

What is UNDP doing NOW to respond?

In Somalia, in spite of the security and access challenges, UNDP has been working in Mogadishu and in some of the districts most seriously affected by the famine, rehabilitating essential agricultural infrastructure, including building shallow wells, boreholes and water pumps; restoring irrigation channels and water harvesting infrastructure; and creating short term jobs which allow households to improve access to food, regain dignity through employment and prepare for the next agricultural season.

In Kenya, UNDP is working with UNHCR to support host communities facing additional stress from both the drought and the influx of refugees from Somalia.  UNDP is also scaling-up existing poverty reduction programmes to address immediate needs while bridging longer term development. This involves emergency work schemes for rehabilitating community infrastructure, and support for income diversification.

In Djibouti, UNDP is supporting immediate needs through the rehabilitation of local community infrastructure and improving local food production in rural areas.

In Ethiopia, the government has made good progress in improving food security in recent years. However, there are still a number of regions with significant vulnerable populations, especially small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities. UNDP’s planned response includes providing commodity vouchers to these vulnerable groups for restocking agricultural inputs, as well as rehabilitating infrastructure to increase water availability and prevent further deterioration of food security. UNDP has also supported the Government in setting up a national Disaster Risk Management Authority.


There are a number of ways to support UNDP’s essential work in the region.  A direct contribution can be made to any of the UNDP Country Offices through a cost sharing agreement.  In addition, contributions can be made at global level through UNDP’s Thematic Trust Fund for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.  More information on UNDP’s work in the region and how to contribute can be found at: www.undp.org.  

UNDP Around the world