As many as 28 million people across East Africa at risk of extreme hunger if rains fail again
Global food and commodity prices spiking in reaction to Ukraine crisis set to worsen hunger for 21 million people already today in severe food insecurity
As many as 28 million people across East Africa face severe hunger if the March rains fail. With the unfolding crisis in Ukraine taking their attention, there is a real danger that the international community will not respond adequately to the escalating hunger crisis in East Africa until it is too late, Oxfam warned today.
A massive “no regrets” mobilization of international humanitarian aid is needed now to avert destitution and to help the 21 million people already facing severe levels of hunger in the midst of conflict, flooding, and a massive two-year drought – unprecedented in 40 years – in countries across East Africa.
“East Africa faces a profoundly alarming hunger crisis. Areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and beyond are experiencing an unfolding full-scale catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive this month, full recovery will be near impossible unless urgent action is taken today,” said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam Executive Director.
“The repercussions of the Ukrainian conflict on the global food system will reverberate around the globe, but it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who will be among those hit hardest and fastest. Rising food prices are a hammer blow to millions of people who are already suffering multiple crises, and make the huge shortfall in aid potentially lethal.” said Bucher.
Covid-related hikes in global food and commodity prices were already undermining the options available to heavily indebted African governments to resolve the mass hunger facing their people. However, the crisis in Ukraine will have catastrophic new consequences as it already pushes up food and commodity prices beyond what East African governments can afford.
Countries in East Africa import up to 90% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. As disruptions begin to affect the global trade in grains, oil, transport and fertilizer, food prices are beginning to skyrocket. They hit an all-time high last week. In Somalia, the prices for staple grains were more than double those of the previous year.
In 2010-11, similar spikes in food prices pushed 44 million more people worldwide into extreme poverty, and indications are that the food-price inflation happening now will be even worse.
Ahmed Mohamud Omar (70), a pastoralist from Wajir County in Kenya, told Oxfam: “Due to the droughts our donkeys have perished and the ones remaining are too weak to pull carts. My only tuktuk is now parked idle because I can’t afford its fuel. I no longer have my camels or goats, I think about what will my family eat, where will their next meal come from, whether I will get the daily jerrican of water.”
Nyadang Martha, from Akobo in South Sudan said: “All the 40 years of my life, I have never seen anything like what is happening here in Akobo. For the past four years, it is either flood, drought, famine, violence, or COVID-19. This is just too much. I am tired of living. If it continues like this, I doubt if my girls will become full adults.”
“The world cannot again talk itself into inertia as people are pushed into extreme food insecurity. To not act now would be immoral and a dereliction of the humanitarian imperative,” said Bucher.
Over 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been displaced in search of water and pasture, just in the first quarter of 2022. Millions of others had to flee their farmlands and homes by conflicts especially around Ethiopia – where 9.4m people now need urgent humanitarian aid.
The region has suffered from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years and flash flooding that has affected nearly a million people in South Sudan.
Kenya has suffered a 70 percent drop in crop production and has declared a national disaster with 3.1m people in acute hunger, now in need of aid. Nearly half of all households in Kenya are having to borrow food or buy it on credit.
Ethiopia is facing its highest level of food insecurity since 2016, in Somali region alone 3.5m people experience critical water and food shortage. Almost a million livestock animals have died, leaving pastoralists who entirely depend on herding for survival with nothing. Women tell us heart-breaking stories about having to skip meals so that they can feed their children.
More than 671,000 people have recently migrated away from their homes in Somalia because nearly 90% of the country is in severe drought. This will likely leave almost half of Somali children under five acutely malnourished.
In South Sudan, an estimated 8.3 million people will face severe food insecurity this lean season (May-July) as climatic and economic shocks intensify.
Despite alarming need, the humanitarian response is woefully underfunded. Only 3% of the total $6bn UN 2022 humanitarian appeal for Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, has been funded to date. Kenya has only secured 11% of its UN flash appeal to date.
- See exclusive stories from people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, including b-rolls, interviews in VNR and photos available on Oxfam;
- See media briefing on “Ukraine crisis: How and Why it Could Cause Hunger Crises Globally to Worsen” Oxfam (17 March 2022);
- For figures on extreme coping mechanisms, see WFP’s food security analysis monitoring survey, and details on the methodology on the Hunger Map;
- “Climate change and La Niña are working together to produce prolonged and persistent dryness,” The World Food Programme and the Multi-Agency in East Africa;
- Displacement figures are found in “Displacement Tracking Matrix in East and Horn of Africa” (December 2021); and, in Somalia, in UN Humanitarian Bulletin (January 2022);
- Data on the UN Humanitarian appeal from UNOCHA and on Kenya’s appeal based on UN Flash Appeal initially raised for October 2021–March 2022;
- Figures on food-price increases in 2010–2011 are from “Soaring Food Prices: Causes, Consequences, and Remedies,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (April 2011) and “Food Price Hike Drives 44 Million People into Poverty,” World Bank (February 2011);
- South Sudan food insecurity projections are from South Sudan Food Security & Livelihood Cluster Analysis Report (February 2022);
- See Conflict, Occupation and War: Habitat-related human rights violations since the pandemic-era call for a global cease-fire, HLRN (October 2021).
Photo: Parched earth. Source: HLRN file.