Oxfam International has warned that as many as 28 million people across East Africa will face severe hunger if the March rains fail again this year.
According to the Organization, with the unfolding crisis in Ukraine taking its 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.
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, Oxfam warned in a statement.
“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. 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”.Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam Executive Director
According Oxfam, 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. The NGO stated that 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.
“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. 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”.Gabriela Bucher
Locust invasion and flooding in East Africa
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, hitting 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, Oxfam warned.
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, according to Oxfam. Millions of others had to flee their farmlands and homes by conflicts especially around Ethiopia – where 9.4m people now need urgent humanitarian aid, Oxfam disclosed.
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. Oxfam stated that nearly half of all households in Kenya are having to borrow food or buy it on credit.
Furthermore, Oxfam indicated that 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”, a member of the Oxfam team said.
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, according to Oxfam, 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.
Oxfam, together with local partners, is redoubling its support for those impacted by the East African hunger crisis, aiming to reach over 1.5 million people most in need with lifesaving water, cash, shelter and sanitation facilities. “Oxfam will help people to build rebuild their lives from these climatic shocks”, the Organization assured.