The Horn of Africa region is also grappling with political instability, locust infestations and the economic fallout of the covid-19 pandemic, undermining its ability to cope with the drought.

Anticipatory action to mitigate drought-induced crises: Learning from Kenya and Somalia

Nairobi, Kenya
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June 17, 2022

In May, Save the Children and Oxfam in partnership with the Jameel Observatory launched the ‘dangerous delay 2 report’ calling for urgent action to tackle the catastrophic hunger crisis in East Africa.

It also called for governments, humanitarian agencies and other stakeholders to improve the ways we predict, anticipate, prepare for, and respond to future food and climate risks.

Recent lessons on the use of early or ‘anticipatory action’ in the current 2020-2022 drought in Kenya and Somalia are the focus of a technical report published by the Jameel Observatory.

Prepared by the Centre for Humanitarian Change, the report and accompanying brief focus on anticipatory action, looking at how actors used climate forecasts and projections of food security conditions to prevent or mitigate negative impacts of drought on people’s lives. It explores the barriers and enablers for anticipatory action and recommends ways to better support such action in future.

Overall the review found few examples of anticipatory action within the formal government and NGO aid system. However, it did find anticipatory action at local, sub-national and community levels, and in the informal system. There are significant opportunities to better link these systems and integrate anticipatory action into existing aid architecture.

On the report findings, Joanne Grace, Head of Hunger and Livelihoods at Save the Children, said: “Despite credible early warning of food crisis for more than 18 months, and despite national level improvements in early warning and drought management systems, neither anticipatory action nor response has been at the scale and speed needed to avert the immense suffering and livelihood loss we are not witnessing.”

Key conclusions of the report are:

  1. Early warning forecasts and projections have improved and are increasingly credible.
  2. Despite the credible analysis and enhanced early warning data, triggering anticipatory action is fraught with difficulties.
  3. There are capacities and resources for anticipatory action in local and informal systems but gaps in operationalizing and resourcing system-wide thinking.
  4. Small scale forecast-based financing has demonstrated impact, but it is not yet widely available.
  5. Actions taken by most stakeholders were more appropriate to relieve drought impacts than to protect livelihoods and strengthen systems.

Key recommendations are:

  1. Develop a common vision and strategy for anticipatory action in different contexts that overcomes questions around early warning to early action gaps; determines the most appropriate actions to be taken, for whom, to mitigate which negative impacts of a crisis, and when is it best to do this; and where and how anticipatory action fits in the international aid and crisis response systems, especially in relation to local systems.
  2. Integrate anticipatory action into existing formal and informal/community structures and systems and use a nexus framework to define the future vision for anticipatory action.
  3. Localise anticipatory action by integrating early warning approaches of informal/community systems into formal systems and better linking local with national/international decision making.
  4. Strengthen early warning and prediction analysis by simplifying and standardising formal national and international level triggers for anticipatory action, clarifying which national-level decisions are key to facilitate local-level leadership and decision making, producing more regular updates of food security and nutrition outcome projections through real-time monitoring and tools, and strengthening the inclusion of affected communities in updating, adjusting and adapting decisions on the timing, targeting and type of anticipatory actions.

Guyo Roba, Head of the Jameel Observatory, says that the report “while showing the critical costs of late action, provides compelling evidence and reasons to turn our gaze towards anticipatory action, particularly with a positively growing confidence in multiple reinforcing forecasts, alerts and projections.”

Download the report and brief: Centre for Humanitarian Change. 2022. Anticipatory action to mitigate drought-induced crises: Tracking drought impacts and aid responses in Kenya and Somalia, 2020-2022. Edinburgh: Jameel Observatory, University of Edinburgh Global Academy on Agriculture and Food Systems and Save the Children.

Download the report