The scale of East Africa’s famine revealed – as the world once again fails to act
New report describes desperate conditions on the ground in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia
One person dies of starvation every 48 seconds in famine-ravaged East Africa, aid organizations say.
A new report describes the desperate conditions on the ground in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Published by Oxfam and Save the Children, in partnership with Jameel Observatory, Dangerous delay 2: The cost of inaction highlights the world’s repeated failure to avoid preventable disasters.
It underscores a failure, once again, to avert a catastrophic famine in East Africa more than a decade since the belated response to the 2011 famine that killed more than 260,000 people in Somalia, half of whom were children under five years old.
Today, nearly half a million people in parts of Somalia and Ethiopia face starvation-like conditions. In Kenya, 3.5 million people suffer from extreme hunger. The number of people suffering from extreme hunger in the three countries has more than doubled since last year, from over 10 million to over 23 million.
Yet urgent appeals are woefully underfunded.
The climate-induced drought, compounded by conflict forcing people from their homes and the economic turmoil of Covid-19, has decimated people’s ability to cope. The conflict in Ukraine has also driven food prices to their highest level on record, making food inaccessible for millions of people.
John Plastow, impact director at Oxfam GB, said: “Despite the warning signs that have worsened over time, world leaders have reacted dismally – too late and still too little – leaving millions of people facing catastrophic hunger.
“I recently visited drought-affected areas in Ethiopia and Kenya, where I met herders such as Mustafa in the Somali region, who had lost all but one and even four of his eight hardy camels. . People’s health is suffering, many are starting to be uprooted, resource scarcity is causing conflict between communities and within households, and the most vulnerable people are already dying.
Save the Children’s Regional Spokesperson for Eastern and Southern Africa, Shako Kijala, said: “We are seeing horrific levels of malnutrition with 5.7 million children currently suffering from acute malnutrition. With the UN warning that more than 350,000 people could die in Somalia if we don’t act, time is running out. Every minute that passes is a minute too close to starvation and the possible death of children. How can we live with this if we let this happen again?
Women are particularly affected as they resort to cutting down on their own food to feed others and accepting precarious jobs or migrating, which puts them at higher risk, especially of gender-based violence.
The crisis is unfolding against a backdrop of crippling national debts that have more than tripled in less than a decade – from $20.7 billion in 2012 to $65.3 billion by 2020 for Somalia, the Ethiopia and Kenya – absorbing the countries’ resources from public services and social protection and driving them to the brink of bankruptcy.
To make matters worse, only 2% ($93.1 million) of the current $4.4 billion United Nations appeal for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has been officially funded to date. Although donors pledged $1.4 billion in aid last month, only $378 million was new money. Oxfam and Save the Children are calling on leaders of the G7 and Western countries, including the UK, to immediately fund the UN appeal and ensure the money is flexible enough to be used where it is. is most needed.
British aid to the region has almost halved over the past year due to the reduction in the international aid budget. In 2017, when 16 million people in the region faced severe starvation, the UK provided £861 million as part of the global response that averted widespread starvation. Despite a higher number of people affected, over the past year the UK has allocated just £219 million to the three countries.
The report examines changes in the humanitarian aid system since 2011. It finds that despite an improved response to the 2017 drought in East Africa, when widespread famine was averted, national and global responses remained far too slow and too limited to prevent a repetition today. . Entrenched bureaucracies and political choices continue to hamper a unified global response, despite improved warning systems and the efforts of local NGOs.
East African governments bear their own responsibility for belated responses – often refusing to acknowledge the scale of the crisis on their doorstep. The report finds that they have not invested enough in agriculture or social protection systems to help people better cope with the drivers of hunger and urges national governments to prioritize lives over to politics. They should be quicker to declare national emergencies as well as shift resources to those most in need and invest in response to economic and climate-related shocks.
The report also highlights the persistent failure of donors and aid agencies to prioritize local organizations on the frontlines of the crisis, which further slowed the response, even when they were ready to act.