Just a few months ago, 23 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia didn’t have enough food to eat. But now 50 million people across East Africa are being pushed towards starvation.
For many, even the most basic nutritious food is further out of reach.
The conflict in Ukraine means food prices are increasing sharply. This all comes on top of years of droughts, ongoing conflict, locust infestations and the economic impacts of Covid-19.
Shocks and pressures are coming from all directions. It’s creating a perfect storm. And the numbers are alarming:
- 36.1 million people across the Horn of Africa will be affected by severe drought this October.
- Around 4.9 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are severely malnourished.
- 986,000 pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are also severely malnourished.
In Somalia alone, there’s been a 50% increase in malnutrition admissions at our health centres since last year. This is moving from a hunger crisis to a famine.
What happens when the rains don’t fall?
In East Africa, the most severe drought in recent history is putting lives at risk.
Families are being forced to take extreme measures to survive. In Somalia , over 750,000 people have already fled their homes in search of food and water since the start of 2022.
In parts of Ethiopia, it hasn’t rained for four years. For farmers like 50-year-old Darmi, this means her cattle are starving, her crops aren’t growing and she’s struggling to feed her children.
Darmi, 50, at her home in Ethiopia. She can’t grow crops on her land because of continuing drought. Photo credit: Action Against Hunger/ Peter Caton
How is the conflict in Ukraine increasing global food prices?
Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s top suppliers of wheat and oil. As their trade becomes more disrupted, these staples are becoming harder to come by.
Now the cost of bread and other essentials is rapidly rising. And it’s hitting the most vulnerable hardest.
Ukraine is a major player in the production of crucial crops like wheat, sunflowers and corn. It’s the world’s fifth largest producer of wheat with 40% destined for Africa and the Middle East.
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But because of reduction in exports from Ukraine, wheat prices are skyrocketing in countries across East Africa.
Escalating prices aren’t just affecting wheat – they’re also impacting other vital foods like maize and cooking oils. With rising fuel and gas prices, there have also been major increases in the cost of transport, fertilisers and shipping. This is making it a lot more expensive to get people the support they need.
Abdiya and her family in a camp for people fleeing conflict in Ethiopia. They only have one bag of sorghum to feed the whole family every day. Photo credit: Action Against Hunger/ Peter Caton
We must act now to save lives
So what happens now? East Africa is on the brink of catastrophe.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has warned that food prices could rise by up to 20% as a result of the conflict in Ukraine – raising the risk of increased malnutrition both in east Africa and across the globe.
Despite alarm bells ringing for months, the international community has been slow to act. Last year, scientists at the Famine Early Warning System Network warned a never-before-seen drought in east Africa was coming if poor rainfall continued into 2022. Tragically, their prediction is turning out to be true.
Mumina from Somalia fled her home with her three children and walked for miles in a desperate search for food and water. Photo credit: Action Against Hunger/ Ahmed Issak Hussein
How we’re helping people
We’re working to find local solutions to the looming hunger crisis. We’re here with life-saving food and the tools, skills and knowledge to help people
Here are a few examples of our response so far:
- In Kenya, we’re providing nutritious food and clean water to the families that need it most
- In Somalia, we’re supporting health centres by providing vital food and medicines, focusing on animal health so herders can continue to make a living and repairing key local services like waterpoints
Join us and make change happen
Starvation is a political failure. The international community, including the UK, must act now – we can’t wait for famine.
The UK Government must live up to the commitments it made at the G7 and the aid budget needs bolstering to meet the increased demand.
Without intervention, children will fall sick and waste away. The UK Government holds the power to stop this.
The window for early action has now closed, but the UK Government can still prevent widespread famine. Sign our petition to the Prime Minister to demand urgent action.
Write to Rishi Sunak now and urge him to step up.
Please note: This article was first published in June 2022 and updated in October 2022.