OCHA’s responsibility in East Africa comprises two of the world’s most volatile sub-regions: the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes. Eastern Africa is a conflict-prone region, where large populations face chronic vulnerability and food insecurity. Emergencies in the region tend to be large scale and are characterized by significant levels of displacement and massive humanitarian needs.
In response to the growing drought, famine and conflict crisis in the Horn of Africa in 2011, OCHA streamlined its presence in Nairobi by integrating the former Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa with OCHA Kenya. The office now provides intensified support services to Kenya as one of the countries hardest hit by the drought. Testament to the priority given to Kenya, a full-time field presence was established in Dadaab and a roving presence established to support coordination in Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera.
OCHA Eastern Africa encouraged a regional approach to cross-border humanitarian issues. This included facilitating multi-country preparedness and planning consultation and chairing the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Team (RHPT). Working with the RHPT and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), OCHA supported the implementation of the inter-agency plan of action on the Horn of Africa and helped improve the coordination of programmatic response. OCHA also strengthened collaboration with regional bodies such as IGAD and the East African Community (EAC) on emergency preparedness and response.
OCHA’s regional reporting and analytical products included situation reports, the Kenya Humanitarian Bulletin, humanitarian snapshots, affected-population reports and LRA regional updates. These products documented humanitarian situations, tracked changes, highlighted emerging needs and served as an important advocacy tool on behalf of those most vulnerable.
OCHA and the International Federation of the Red Cross served as co-chairs of the Regional Communications Group (RCG). The group gathers public information officers of UN agencies, NGOs and donor nations for information sharing, lessons learned, and coordination of advocacy and messaging on the Horn of Africa crisis.
Regarding Kenya, OCHA East Africa continues to provide its suite of coordination-support services. It assists the HC and HCT by coordinating the humanitarian response, and it facilitates inter-sector coordination to ensure the operational coordination and integration of cross-cutting issues. OCHA manages a $4 million Emergency Response Fund in support of the humanitarian response. It also provides a range of information management services at national and sub-national levels to support the sectoral response.
OCHA remains actively engaged with a variety of organizations, tackling a range of humanitarian concerns and focusing on emergencies and long-term recovery and resilience. These included the Kenya Humanitarian Forum, Kenya Humanitarian Partnership Team, Urban Vulnerability Forum, the In-Country Network on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and Security in Mobility for pastoralist communities. OCHA’s greatest achievement in Kenya in 2011 was the Government’s adoption of the OCHA-led “Ending Drought Emergencies” initiative, which formed the basis of a regional summit and action plan.
As OCHA Eastern Africa is based in Nairobi, it has relatively easy access to a range of countries, from Djibouti to Burundi. Geographical proximity is particularly important when OCHA needs to provide surge support to crisis-affected countries. For example, there are countries where OCHA has a presence, but where an emergency could quickly escalate beyond the capacity of the country office. This requires a rapid deployment of experienced additional personnel, backed by the necessary resources.
OCHA will continue to support countries without an OCHA presence to enhance their levels of emergency preparedness, particularly by working with national disaster management authorities and UN Country Teams. OCHA will strengthen links with regional bodies such as IGAD and the EAC. The OCHA-led RCG will aim to increase contact with national and international media, and promote the use of new technologies and social media to improve communication with beneficiaries.
In addition to closely monitoring developments in the Horn of Africa, OCHA will pay greater attention to the wider region, particularly States such as South Sudan and Burundi where there are clear signs of fragility. OCHA will focus on the cross-border implications of humanitarian crises that could emerge in any country in the region.
In Kenya, OCHA will continue to facilitate national and local coordination, preparing information products that explain the impact of the Horn of Africa crisis on Kenya. OCHA’s humanitarian planning will consider the potential consequences of any negative changes in the political climate, being mindful of Kenya’s experiences during the post-election violence of 2007-2008 when the country faced a full-on political, humanitarian and economic crisis. OCHA will reinforce the roll-out of the Minimum Preparedness Package in the region.