Rethinking Humanitarian Assistance: Climate and Crisis in the Horn of Africa

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The Horn of Africa is in the midst of the longest and most devastating drought it has ever experienced. Within that context, this report provides humanitarian actors—and their counterparts in the development and peacebuilding communities—with a reconceptualization of the intersections between climate change and conflict. Drawing on interdisciplinary research, expert interviews, and contextual analyses, this report elucidates the interactions between climate change and other areas of vulnerability within the region. It starts by outlining the impacts of the climate crisis and comparing how these manifest in Ethiopia, Somalia, and northern Kenya. It then explores ties between climate vulnerability and fragility in these countries. Based on four major regional factors of fragility—(1) exposure to increasingly frequent and severe climate shocks, (2) resource-dependent livelihoods, (3) weak and exclusive governance, and (4) regional instability and conflict—this report then moves to consider major gaps and challenges in providing humanitarian aid. It concludes by outlining new ways forward in the (1) timing, (2) approach, (3) conflict sensitivity, (4) human mobility enhancement, and (5) innovation of humanitarian responses.

The climate will continue to change, but the impact of that change on human security need not be at the level of devastation seen over the past decade in the Horn of Africa.

This report was made possible through the generous support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this report are the sole responsibility of CSIS and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the U.S. government.

Beza Tesfaye
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Project on Fragility and Mobility
Erol Yayboke
Director, Project on Fragility and Mobility and Senior Fellow, International Security Program

Anastasia Strouboulis

Former Research Assistant, Project on Fragility and Mobility