Outsmarting La Niña

Lessons and Recommendations for Strengthening Resilience Through the Drought Response in the Horn of Africa

Three people watering plants.
March 17, 2022 • UPDATED March 21, 2022

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One of the worst droughts in a generation is currently unfolding in the Horn of Africa. The impacts of the drought are exacerbated by, and in some cases further fueling, increases in conflict in the region. As a result, more than 13 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are already experiencing extreme hunger.

In many ways, those living in the drylands of the Horn are more prepared than in previous droughts. Governments, donors, aid agencies, and local communities have made major investments over the last decade to build resilience and end drought emergencies. These investments are helping to mitigate some of the worst effects of the current drought. It is critical that the current response protects and builds on these hard-won gains.

This brief draws on input from an expert roundtable with policy and technical experts, and leverages Mercy Corps’ extensive experience responding to drought cycles in the Horn of Africa. We set forth recommendations for donors to respond not only faster to the current crisis, but smarter to prepare for the next one. Specifically, we call on humanitarian and development actors to:

  • Harness proven tools that allow rapid, flexible responses to emergencies.
  • Strengthen the formal and informal systems that help communities prepare for, cope with, and recover from severe droughts.
  • Address the underlying drivers of crises, including climate change, conflict, and natural resource degradation.