Following the drought crisis of 2011, the food security situation in much of the Horn of Africa improved during 2012, with generally favourable rainfall across much of the region. Nevertheless, gains remained precarious, particularly in parts of Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia and northern and eastern Kenya. Insecurity and humanitarian access problems persisted in Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia, across much of northern Kenya, parts of Sudan and South Sudan, and most of Somalia.
The humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes Region deteriorated dramatically in 2012, most notably due to the launch of the M23 rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in April 2012. By year-end, the movement had taken the eastern city of Goma and forced the Government to the negotiating table to revisit a March 2009 peace deal that M23 argued was largely ignored by authorities in the capital, Kinshasa. In addition to hundreds of thousands of newly displaced people in the Kivu Provinces of eastern DRC, tens of thousands of Congolese refugees had fled to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
In 2012 OCHA consolidated its regional office and Kenya country presence in Nairobi into a single office for eastern Africa. OCHA EA is a hybrid office combining regional and Kenya Country Office services. The office is now organized into four units: a Regional Preparedness and Response Unit, a Kenya Coordination Unit, an Administrative Unit, and a Public Information, Reports and Information Management Unit. The new hub plays a critical role in providing first-line surge support to crisis-affected countries in the region, supporting preparedness in-country or across borders, and developing partnerships for preparedness and response.
In Kenya, OCHA led the development of the humanitarian pillar of the national contingency plan for the 2013 general elections. As part of humanitarian preparedness, OCHA initiated the establishment of eight humanitarian hubs across the country, from which response to any March 2013 general election-related violence would be coordinated. OCHA also played a key role in developing the multi-agency Kenya Initial Response Assessment (KIRA) tool (endorsed and adopted by the national and international humanitarian community in Kenya and by the Government) and in conducting related simulation exercises.
OCHA maintained a presence at the Dadaab refugee complex, where its activities remained focused on host-community support. The office also continued to chair the Kenya Humanitarian Forum – a key meeting-and-consultation point for all humanitarian actors in Kenya – and to serve as secretariat for the Kenya Humanitarian Partnership Team. This is a high-level consultative forum chaired by the Humanitarian Coordinator and composed of representatives from UN agencies, INGOs and donor Governments.
OCHA’s advocacy on behalf of vulnerable pastoralist communities in northern Kenya culminated in the approval and launch of a $6.1 million project titled Strengthening Human Security in the Border Communities of Turkana, Kenya. Financed by the UN Human Security Trust Fund, the project aims to strengthen the resilience of livelihoods of people face with natural disasters and insecurity.
The IASC Horn of Africa Plan of Action, which was developed to improve humanitarian response to protracted crises, was integrated into the IGAD Ending Drought Emergencies programme, which is aimed at resilience. A Kenya-specific Ending Drought Emergencies Plan was developed by the Government with OCHA and other humanitarian partner support, and integrated into the Government’s Mid-Term Plan 2013-2018. The office also led regional consultations on cross-border implications of the Somalia and Great Lakes crises, including preparedness for population movements, common key messaging, security and civil-military engagement.
In Djibouti, OCHA EA provided coordination, emergency preparedness, contingency planning and humanitarian financing support (Consolidated Appeal Process, Central Emergency Response Fund) to the UNCT and national authorities.
To highlight the needs of the most vulnerable people in the region, OCHA produced information and analytical products, such as Humanitarian Bulletins, quarterly Lord’s Resistance Army regional snapshots, the Displaced Populations Report and key messages.
OCHA and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) co-chaired the Regional Communications Group. It attracted regular participation from UN agencies, NGOs, donor Governments and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. All participants gather to share information and initiatives, and seek areas of possible inter-agency collaboration. OCHA also held a year-end event focused on improving communications with disaster-affected communities (CDAC) in collaboration with the CDAC Network. Outreach to foreign and national media outlets was an ongoing activity.
OCHA’s website was moved to the new corporate platform, while Kenya coordination activities were migrated to the new http://kenya.humanitarianresponse.info/. The Information Management Team also provided support and training to other humanitarian organizations and to Government authorities, and played an important role in data collection and analysis (for example with the KIRA).
The office worked to strengthen regional emergency preparedness, including through the OCHA-chaired Regional Humanitarian Consultation on the Great Lakes. OCHA and IFRC also co-organized a workshop on International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) for high-level Government authorities from across Eastern Africa, a first-of-its-kind event in the region. Armed with new knowledge, officials were better equipped to advocate inclusion of IDRL components in their national legislation.