This chapter looks briefly at some of the particular characteristics of drought as a natural hazard. Unlike earthquakes or cyclones, where the date (and even the exact time) of the hazard can be identified, droughts do not become disasters until time has passed.
The summer of 2011 produced one of the worst droughts in 60 years in the Horn of Africa, affecting Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. In late July 2011, the UN declared the situation in parts of southern Somalia to be a famine in which 3.7 million people – nearly half the country’s population –faced a humanitarian crisis, but most of the issues facing the country were not new. This chapter examines of how drought in Somalia, indeed the Horn of Africa generally, led to famine – a phenomenon the world has not seen for years, since the last famine in Somalia in the early 1990s.
The fact that famine emerged in Somalia in mid-2011 serves as an example of the deadly effects of the combination of severe and prolonged drought, ballooning food and water prices, poor governance, ongoing conflict, and an international response that was inadequate, for many reasons, to meet the needs of millions of people.