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Policy paper

Outsmarting La Niña: Lessons and Recommendations for Strengthening Resilience Through the Drought Response in the Horn of Africa

21 March 2022

One of the worst droughts in a generation is currently unfolding in the Horn of Africa. The impacts of the drought are exacerbated by, and in some cases further fueling, increases in conflict in the region. As a result, more than 13 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are already experiencing extreme hunger.

In many ways, those living in the drylands of the Horn are more prepared than in previous droughts. Governments, donors, aid agencies, and local communities have made major investments over the last decade to build resilience and end drought emergencies. These investments are helping to mitigate some of the worst effects of the current drought. It is critical that the current response protects and builds on these hard-won gains.

Mercy Corps’ brief draws on years of experience responding to drought cycles in the Horn of Africa, input from an expert roundtable we convened with policy and technical experts, and lessons from previous drought responses.

We set forth recommendations for donors to respond not only faster to the current crisis, but smarter to prepare for the next one. Specifically, we call on humanitarian and development actors to:
Harness proven tools, such as crisis modifiers, that allow rapid, flexible responses to crises;
Strengthen the formal and informal systems that help communities prepare for, cope with, and recover from severe droughts;
Address the underlying drivers of crises, including climate change, conflict, and natural resource degradation.