YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – A new report backed by two UN bodies, the World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has warned that as many as 50 million people in Eastern Africa will face acute food insecurity this year.
“The current food security situation across the Horn of Africa is dire after four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years, or since the beginning of the satellite era,” said Chimimba David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa.
While “failed harvests, livestock deaths, and water shortages are increasing the threat of famine,” a worsening climate crisis and the Russian war on Ukraine are also part of the problem.
The UK-based charity, Christian Aid, has taken the United Kingdom to task for cutting financial aid to the region in the face of the humanitarian crisis.
Families are taking desperate measures to survive, with over a million abandoning their homes in search of food and pasture for livestock. Millions are also facing water shortages, many water points have dried up or reduced in quality, increasing the risk of disease,” said Lizzy Hallinan, Global Crisis Contexts Lead for Christian Aid.
“This is also due to donors/UK government neglect of support to programming that focuses on building communities’ resilience to climate disasters over the long term, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather and humanitarian catastrophe,” she told Crux.
Hallinan spoke to Crux about how the crisis was affecting ordinary people, as well as about the Harvest Appeal her organization has launched in efforts to bring help to the region.
Crux: How big a problem is the hunger situation in East Africa?
This is the worst hunger crisis in East Africa for a generation. Men, women and children across East Africa are facing the threat of famine amidst the worst drought in 40 years. They are now experiencing an unprecedented fifth failed rainy season.
What are the major factors driving hunger?
Failed harvests, livestock deaths, and water shortages are increasing the threat of famine. The severe conditions have also been made worse by the climate crisis, COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has caused a global cost of living crisis.
How has the crisis affected people?
Families are taking desperate measures to survive, with over a million abandoning their homes in search of food and pasture for livestock. Millions are also facing water shortages, many water points have dried up or reduced in quality, increasing the risk of disease. This is also due to donors/UK government neglect of support to programming that focuses on building communities’ resilience to climate disasters over the long term, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather and humanitarian catastrophe.
Working through local partners, Christian Aid is responding to the severe drought in Ethiopia and Kenya and helping over 300,000 people by repairing wells, handing out water purification kits, providing cash support and trucking water to drought affected communities as well as providing fodder and medicine to keep valuable livestock alive.
Community members Christian Aid partner CIFA works with in Marsabit County, northern Kenya, told us that traditionally they have raised cattle, but the cattle struggle to survive through more than one or two missed rains. They have adapted by switching to raising goats and camels, which are hardier in drought.
What is the nature of the Harvest Appeal that Christian Aid has launched?
This year, it is the East Africa Hunger Crisis Appeal. What is critical now is getting funds into the hands of the local organizations we work with on the ground right away. Every day we wait, communities on the ground face increasingly dire conditions. Time is of the essence.
But it is not too late to save lives and prevent a devastating famine. Every donation helps. By donating today, we can give lasting hope, stop this widespread malnutrition and hunger and help people build a life free from poverty and injustice.
Christian Aid has warned that UK government support for the hunger crisis in East Africa must amount to more than “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” What do you mean by that?
With the UK government having cut international aid and capped it at 0.5 of percent of GDP, limited funds being provided to tackle the hunger crisis in East Africa is simply repurposing money from one crisis to another. The UK government should revert back to the 0.7 percent [pledged by previous governments] to show leadership in this disaster.
For context, direct UK aid and planned aid to Ethiopia fell from £241 million [$270 million] in 2020/21 to £108 million in 2021/22, a cut of 55 percent. Similar cuts have also been made for other countries across East Africa.
How have governments and NGOs been responding to this appeal?
The UK government has only made £156 million available, a drop in the ocean compared to the £861 million that helped avert famine in 2017 and far from living up to our moral obligations to meet the challenge of this escalating disaster.
The UK government must speed up the delivery of funding that has already been promised, reverse cuts to international aid and ensure all humanitarian and development funding supports local actors who are best placed to respond quickly.