This paper outlines for the UN Special Envoy some of the major issues that UN Agencies working with governments and local authorities need to address to resolve some of the structural problems relating to perennial drought. 


The Horn of Africa has been a region prone to drought for decades. It is one of the most arid environments on earth and yet drought has increasingly resulted in humanitarian disaster due to the combined and cumulative effects of lack of effective governmental structures, armed conflict and environmental degradation with a concomitant increase in livestock and human populations. 

Traditional ways of dealing with drought " such as de-stocking and migration " have been seriously undermined due to desertification, conflict, restricted migratory routes, land enclosure, and diminishing water supplies. 

In these circumstances, UN Agencies must advance structural programmes which effectively address the range of problems from lack of governance to dealing with a pastoral economy suffering a dwindling water and pasture resource base. 


In the north of Somalia there is capacity, through the "Somaliland" and "Puntland" administrations, to begin to address the problems related to drought. 

Examples include:

  • The formulation of a Somaliland Drought Mitigation Plan in 1997 and current measures to utilise this to address the needs of pastoralists in the Haud area;

  • Intervention by the Puntland authorities during the 1999 drought in setting up Regional Drought Committees and assisting in water-trucking. In April 2000, the local authority is working with FSAU and the UN Agencies in ensuring effective monitoring and emergency preparation. 

These initiatives need to be further strengthened with the assistance of UN Agencies to address the problem in the long term. 

In the south, the UN Agencies will continue to be challenged by ineffective authority until there is a political solution in Somalia. However, recent measures, including the adoption of comprehensive "ground rules", are ways in which the UN can assert responsibilities on local authorities to assist and protect their own populations as well as guaranteeing security for UN operations. 


In addition to working with local authorities in rural/ pastoral areas, UN Agencies need to assist in strengthening the Somali economy, particularly in the north, to ensure diversification from a one-export economy " livestock. 

There is a need for significant economic recovery, stimulated by international development programmes, which are immediately put in place during the current relief operation.

Examples could include: 

  • Improvement of the Berbera and Bossasso ports and rehabilitating the Berbera and Bossasso road corridors to facilitate trade;

  • Economic investment to encourage diversification and stimulation of the local economy;

  • Development of the pastoral economy, within its environmental constraints, looking at range and water management, stocking size and trade. 


The drought in the Horn of Africa is a striking example of how the fortunes and prospects communities are increasingly bound together: there are now overlapping communities of fate which have little respect for nation state boundaries (Ethiopia-Kenya-Somalia).

The UN Agencies accordingly have to be able establish a short and long term response which is coterminous with a regional problem " rather than one confined to administrative boundaries. 

Examples of such regionalisation include:

  • Sharing of information on human and livestock movements and emergency interventions to ensure symmetry of emergency programmes;

  • Programmes assisting nomadic pastoral communities in education, livestock and human health, range management and water provision across Ethiopia Region 5 and Somalia;

  • Developmental inputs to ride on the back of relief operations to improve the Berbera-Ethiopia corridor to improve trade and the economy in the region.

Steps have already been taken in this direction including:

  • Joint UNDP Ethiopia and UNDP Somalia programmes working with UNHCR on repatriation and reintegration of refugees;

  • Meetings with UN Resident Coordinators, UNICEF, WFP and UNHCR Representatives from Ethiopia and Somalia to improve information sharing and programme symmetry. (UNCU 19 April 2000).