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Nairobi, 4 June 2024. Up to one in five people in the Horn of Africa lacks access to clean and safe water in a region hard hit by recurrent droughts and floods. Regional leaders are calling for more investment in water management, as the climate crisis is heightening water stress in the Horn of Africa. 

Representatives from eight UN agencies, the World Bank and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), development and humanitarian partners, civil society organizations, and the private sector met today in Nairobi, Kenya, for a Strategic Partners’ Dialogue to strengthen regional collaboration on water management. 

About 30 percent of the population in the region live in arid and semi-arid lands, exposing them to the risks of water insecurity. Much of the region faces water scarcity for at least three months of the year. Until May 2023, the Horn of Africa experienced below-average rainfall for three consecutive years, affecting both long rains and short rains, causing up to 90% of water boreholes to dry up and resulting in the deaths of more than a third of all the livestock. Pastoralist communities haven’t yet recovered from this disaster, and the potential transition to a La Niña episode by the end of the year could bring another episode of drought. 

Without concerted action, water insecurity and climate change-related shocks may undermine national development agendas across the Horn of Africa. Competition for limited water resources can also fuel tensions between communities, especially in borderland areas. Just over a decade ago, four out of eight IGAD region countries faced water scarcity; the number could increase to six by 2025. 

Development and climate financing, as well as investments through collaborative and innovative initiatives, are required to enable people in the region to thrive today and in the future.

The Partners’ dialogue marks another milestone in the development of a regional collaborative approach, initiated by a regional workshop organized in September and the publication of IGAD’s joint ministerial communiqué in November, in line with the objectives of the agenda set at the 2023 UN Water Conference. This initiative also complements ongoing joint UN investments to unlock sustainable water solutions in the Horn of Africa. 

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