European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
"Helping the Horn of Africa: From efficient life-saving crisis response today to long-term resilience to droughts"
Speech at the African Union's Pledging conference for the Horn of Africa
Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, 25 August 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are gathered today in the face of hunger in the Horn of Africa. In a world of plenty, tens of thousands of people have already died and millions more are in danger. Even when the rains come, the poisonous legacy of the drought will remain – for the families made destitute and forced into poverty, for the children forever blighted by malnutrition.
Our collective human duty is to alleviate today’s suffering – but also to set a course of development in the Horn so no drought will ever have the same devastating consequences.
African countries are already making great efforts to deal with the crisis. Both Kenya and Ethiopia are not only helping their own affected populations, but are welcoming the thousands of refugees fleeing Somalia each day. There are few countries in the world that would respond with such generosity to their neighbours. In this context, it is a moral imperative for the rest of us in the international community to shoulder the burden fallen on the region.
First, we must deliver more aid where the crisis is most severe: inside Somalia. When I visited south Somalia, many people told me that they would prefer not to leave their homeland if they could be helped and protected there.
Yes, access inside famine-affected areas in Somalia is extremely difficult -- but it is not impossible. There are humanitarian organisations which have never left Somalia, and there are communities and local leaders who welcome them. AMISOM is doing a tremendous job and should continue to be supported. It is essential that everywhere in Somalia – in areas controlled by the Transitional Federal Government, but also by Al Shabaab -- humanitarian organisations have unhindered access to people in need.
Second, we must recognise that more than 2/3 of the affected people are outside of Somalia – across Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Even if rainfall is plentiful it would take until next summer for the situation to substantially improve. This is the reality and the international community must ensure a substantial and steady flow of support until the crisis is over.
The European Union collectively has already provided some €600 million in 2011, of which €160 from the European Commission. But the magnitude of the crisis means that more will be certainly needed, from us and from others around the world. I would like to lend my full support for the attention that African Union has put on engaging with non-traditional donors and with the private sector.
Stepping up the immediate response will save lives. But we also need to invest in long term solutions to build up resilience to future droughts.
This takes me to my third and last point. Economic development is the best way to develop resilience and we in the EU are wholeheartedly committed to support it. But we also must recognise take that climate change makes droughts more frequent and more severe. And their impacts are magnified by the pressures from growing populations, competing for scarce resources on fragile lands.
We cannot prevent climate change. But we can anticipate it and plan for its consequences. There is already plenty of evidence that sensible policies on drought prevention work. I have seen for myself in Moyale, in Northern Kenya, that simple measures -- such as helping communities to manage the size of their livestock and providing them with mobile health clinics that detect and respond to the first signs of malnutrition -- can have a huge impact.
Ladies and Gentlemen
A short term response to this famine and a long term approach to develop resilience to future droughts – they are both in the hands of the African governments and the African Union, and I have no doubt today’s meeting will mark an important step in leading on both. I wish you every success and I pledge to you that Europe will stand on your side.