Food & Hunger

  • In a world full of food one in eight people goes to bed hungry every night. Small farms around the world put food on the plates of one in three people on this planet. Yet extreme weather and unpredictable seasons are affecting what farmers can grow. Food prices are going up. Food quality is going down. Nearly a billion of the world’s poorest people are finding it even harder to feed their families. We demand a fairer and sustainable global food system so everyone has enough to eat. That means investing in small-scale food producers, helping farmers adapt to climate change, and securing and protecting their access to land.

East Africa Hunger Crisis | Learn more

One in five people in drought-stricken East Africa – across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – don't have enough safe drinking water. Failed rain is predicted to persist for a sixth consecutive season by May, making this the longest drought on record.

World Water Day - The longest drought on record in East Africa

22 March 2023

Last September, we visited Naipa borehole in Turkana County, Northern Kenya, where a solar pump provided precious water to people and livestock in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.

The lines of thirsty, waiting camels had travelled long distances and their pleasure in finally getting a drink was audible and visible.

Today, we mark World Water Day by highlighting what is now the longest drought on record in East Africa. Long-awaited rains are forecasted to fail this May, making it the sixth consecutive failed rainy season that climate change has brought to the region.

This is unprecedented. In northern Kenya, 95% of water sources have dried up in pastoral areas like Marsabit and Turkana.

Last year we released a report that highlighted how one person is likely to die of hunger every 36 seconds from drought-induced hunger.

Now we must add a new deadly threat - thirst. One in five people in drought-stricken East Africa – a total of 33.5 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – don't have enough safe drinking water.

“The hungriest people in the region are also the thirstiest. People have depleted their last penny as they lost their crops and animals. They now have to pay vendors who continuously hike water prices”, said Fati N’Zi-Hassane, Oxfam in Africa Director.

In some areas in Ethiopia, northern Kenya and Somalia, the cost of water has skyrocketed by 400 percent since January 2021, making remaining water out of reach for the 22.7 million people already facing acute hunger.

Travelling in Northern Kenya last year we drove through a parched landscape, scattered with the remains of dead livestock. The river beds were almost dry but where there was water there were trucks, mostly privately operated, taking water to sell. The situation is the same throughout the region.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are now relying on emergency water trucking, or unprotected wells which are unsafe and contaminated. Without clean water, people are at risk of contracting easily preventable diseases, such as acute watery diarrhoea and cholera”, added N’Zi-Hassane.

In Somalia’s Bay region, where 76,000 people are already facing famine-like conditions, water prices have more than doubled. Families are being forced to make hard choices like selling off what little essential possessions they have left or moving in search of water.

Khadra Omar, a 26-year-old resident from Mogadishu, said, “People are now risking their lives consuming dirty water as a result of the drought. The past droughts were not this bad, we were able to get water but in this one, it has been impossible to get water, everything has dried up and the water that is available is very expensive for us to afford, people are now dying because of thirst”.

While famine has so far been averted in countries like Somalia, mostly due to an increase in humanitarian response – only 20 percent of the UN $7 billion appeal for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has been funded to date, which will derail efforts to help millions of people on the brink.

The world should not turn its back on East Africa. Without an urgent and major increase in aid, many more people will die of hunger and thirst.

“The worsening hunger crisis in East Africa is a harsh reminder that we also need long-term solutions beyond immediate humanitarian relief, to help people cope with the recurrent shocks. National governments must lead that change by investing in social protection, water infrastructure and supporting food producers,” added N’Zi-Hassane.



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East Africa Hunger Crisis Update | Your Support In 2022

Safia cooking rice and potatoes.
Safia cooking rice and potatoes. Safia is helped by the Cash Transfer Programme and NFI (Non Food Item) distribution in Badana, Kenya. Photo: Loliwe Phiri/Oxfam

27.6 million people are suffering from food insecurity

Did you know that when you give a gift to one household – it is shared. That is the strength of community in East Africa. One family will not eat knowing a neighbour is hungry. Neighbours are invited to the table to share the meal.

Donors like you, are part of that community. You provide the rice and potatoes cooked by Safia (below) to enable a meal to be shared with her family and neighbours. 

Safia adding purification treatment to bucket of water.
Safia adding purification treatment to bucket of water. Safia is helped by the Cash Transfer Programme and NFI (Non Food Item) distribution in Badana, Kenya. Photo: Loliwe Phiri/Oxfam

Safia asked Oxfam to express her gratitude to donors like you: “What makes me happy is seeing my kids satisfied and having no problems.” Thanks to your support and kindness, Oxfam can work immediately to save lives, while also building resilience for the future.

In Badana, Kenya, hunger is a familiar feeling for Safia. The worst drought to hit the area in more than 40 years has devastated her livelihood; her lifestock. The death of her goats has left her struggling to feed herself and her family.

Thanks to Oxfam supporters like you, families like Safia’s are receiving essential non-food items (like water purifying tablets, hygiene items and jerry can’s for water storage) alongside cash transfers.

 Safia receives €68/£59 per month which enables her to buy food in local markets, keeping her family safe from malnutrition, and also helps her to pay school fees so she can keep her children in education. This aid not only helps people to survive but gives them an opportunity to build resilience for the future!

“We are surviving on that money to escape death from hunger. It’s our only hope” Every day, people in East Africa, like Safia, are suffering the calamitous effects of climate change. Despite being responsible for less than 0.05% of global carbon emissions, they are bearing the brunt of the damage. Over the last decade they have been repeatedly stuck by climate-related shocks, and as they build on the devastation of each other – recovering becomes more and more difficult.

We hope now, thanks to a huge win at COP27, that when a similar emergency hits, finance will be available at the beginning of the crisis. This will enable faster responses – which in turn will save lives, protect dignity and provide climate justice for the proud people of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. They will no longer be dependent on assistance. Instead, they will receive their due compensation from the climate ‘Loss and Damage’ fund.

COP27 And its Effect on global equality

After three decades of campaigning work from developing countries, NGOs, activists, and grassroots movements the world over, a dedicated fund will be created to provide justice for communities on the frontline of the climate crisis. This was confirmed during COP27.

This was a huge win for climate justice advocates everywhere. Oxfam has been working to amplify local voices, campaigners and our supporters like you.

This dedicated finance facility will help to rebalance the scales and provide justice to frontline communities suffering from loss and damage to their homelands.

Leaders in disaster preparedness & prevention

Oxfam works with local grassroots organisations and committees to ensure resilience to climate shocks are available where needed. Just one example is detailed below.

Women’s group members display mangrove saplings they’ve raised in their nursery.
Women’s group members display mangrove saplings they’ve raised in their nursery. Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam

Reforesting the ocean

There is little between the town of Dolores in the Philippines, and the full force of the typhoons that sweep in from the Pacific—storms that are increasing in frequency and intensity.

However, the women of the Dolores community are making the most of what they have available to tackle natural disaster. Two hundred meters from shore is a mangrove forest—a tangle of low trees that are perfectly adapted to salt water and tides—which buffers the coastal communities from destructive waves and winds.

In the past, people harvested the mangroves to make fires and fences, but now the women are working to protect and restore them. 

Women’s group members show Oxfam’s Jenny Gacutno how to plant a mangrove sapling.
Women’s group members show Oxfam’s Jenny Gacutno how to plant a mangrove sapling. Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam

In 2021, Oxfam and partner SIKAT (the Center for the Development of Indigenous Science and Technology) encouraged this group of female leaders to form a savings group and become active in disaster management. Oxfam have also provided training to help them take their rightful place as decision makers in their community, and together we are achieving success with the mangrove project.

This community has planted thousands of mangrove saplings, enlisting their communities and local authorities to lend a hand, and they could not be more enthusiastic about the results.

Marianne Penido is a member of a women’s group that is restoring a mangrove forest.
Marianne Penido is a member of a women’s group that is restoring a mangrove forest. Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam
The women in this community still have many other challenges to contend with, but it’s clear they treasure their time together. “I used to stay at home, but now I go out with the other women and we laugh together,” says Purificio Rosales. “I feel stronger.”
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Hunger likely to claim a life every 36 seconds in drought-stricken East Africa over next three months – Oxfam

One person is likely to die of hunger every 36 seconds between now and the end of the year in drought-stricken East Africa as the worst hit areas hurtle towards famine, Oxfam warned today.

The international agency warned that the situation in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya is deteriorating fast. In Somalia, it is the worst hunger crisis in living memory, with the number of people experiencing acute hunger already surpassing that of the famine of 2011, when more than a quarter of a million people died. Almost one in six people in Somalia are now facing extreme hunger.

Large parts of the region have suffered four failed rainy seasons – with a fifth likely to unfold over the next three months – as climate change has decimated crops and forced pastoralists to abandon their traditional way of life.

“When Oxfam Ireland were in the region recently raising the alarm, people told us they could do nothing but look skyward hoping for rain,” said Oxfam Ireland’s CEO Jim Clarken. “People are suffering because of changes to the climate that they did nothing to cause. Rich nations, including Ireland, which have done most to contribute to the climate crisis have a moral responsibility to protect people from the damage they have caused.”

The crisis has been exacerbated in many places by conflict, the fallout from Covid-19 and by rising food prices due in part to the war in Ukraine.

Oxfam analysis of the latest available data suggests that the rate at which people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are dying of hunger has increased since May when it estimated that a person was dying every 48 seconds and dangerous delays in providing aid to millions on the brink of starvation. Lack of available data meant it was not possible to include South Sudan, which is in the grip of its own hunger crisis caused by flooding and conflict.

Across the four countries, more than 6 million children face or are already suffering acute malnutrition.

Parvin Ngala, Oxfam Horn East and Central Africa Regional Director, said: “The clock is ticking inexorably towards famine and more and more people are dying as hunger tightens its grip.

“After four seasons of failed rains, people are losing their struggle to survive – their livestock have died; crops have failed; and food prices have been pushed ever higher by the war in Ukraine. The alarm has been sounding for months, but donors are yet to wake up to the terrible reality. With another failed rains expected failure to act will turn a crisis into a full-scale catastrophe.

There is currently a total funding gap of more than $3 billion in UN appeals for Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan.

“The fact that we are still needing to use the term 'famine' in the 21st century is an abomination and absolute failure of humankind,” said Oxfam Ireland’s CEO Jim Clarken. With our extraordinary global capacity, resources and know how, we cannot in the 21st century look back and regret that there is more we could have done while children, women and men die from something as basic as a lack of food in a world of plenty.”

Prices of basic foodstuffs across the region have often doubled and sometimes tripled in recent months, driven by local shortages and the rise in global process exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.


Contact: Clare Cronin | | +353 (0) 87 195 2551

Notes to editors:

  • Interviews, photos and testimony of people affected by the crisis plus B-roll available on request. 
  • To calculate the daily deaths, we used the crude death rate of (0.5-0.99) per 10,000 people in Crisis (IPC 3) levels of acute food insecurity as specified in The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Global Partners (2021), as per Technical Manual Version 3.1: Evidence and Standards for Better Food Security and Nutrition Decisions. Then, we subtracted the normal daily death rate of 0.22 per 10,000 people per day; this figure is based on data from the UN and from national, EU, and Pacific Community statistical offices.  
  • As of October 2022, across the three countries, the crude death rate is at least 880-2,421 per day, 0.61-1.68 per minute, i.e., between one every 1.6 minutes and one every 36 seconds. These figures are conservative, since they are based on the crude death rate for IPC 3, and do not take into account the higher crude death rates for IPC 4 and 5.  
  • Across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, approximately 31,435,315 people are now estimated to be in Crisis or worse (IPC 3 and above) or similar levels of acute food insecurity. According to IPC analyses (see IPC Population Tracking Tool), 11,035,315 people across Kenya and Somalia are projected to face high levels of acute hunger (IPC 3 and above) in October-December 2022. There are no recent IPC analyses for Ethiopia so we have used a proxy figure of 20.4m people experiencing acute food insecurity across Ethiopia, as per the number of People in Need (PiN) of food security and livelihoods assistance in the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Ethiopia, and as also used in the FAO-WFP Hunger Hotspot report for October 2022 to January 2023.
  • In May 2022, 22.4-23.4m people across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia faced high levels of acute hunger (IPC 3 and above). This included:  7.4 million across Ethiopia (as per the IPC projection for July-September 2021); 5.5-6.5 million people in southeast Ethiopia (April 2022 estimate); 3.5 million people from Kenya (March-June 2022 IPC projection); and 6 million people in Somalia (April-June 2022 IPC projection). Across the three countries, the crude death rate was at least 627-1,802 per day, 0.44-1.25 per minute, i.e., between one every 2.5 minutes and one every 48 seconds.

Your Kindness Saves Lives: How the East Africa Hunger Crisis is Unfolding

Khadija Farah/Oxfam

The fourth consecutive failed rains across East Africa were confirmed during March to May of this year, causing extensive devastation. Livestock deaths, crop decay, food stock depletion.

The current dry season is also magnifying the issues. Climate change has led to abnormally high temperatures this summer. Leading to excessive plant and soil moisture-loss, the earth is cracking and turning to dust.

 And we are facing into another huge set-back. Current predictions indicate that we may be facing into an unprecedented fifth failed rain season this October to December. Meaning further desolation is expected for the region.

In June, Hoden reached out to Oxfam supporters, to ask for help. Your response to her request has been astounding. You have made a positive difference to families facing this crisis.

Thanks to supporters like you, food and other essentials are being provided to vulnerable families, like Hoden’s in Ethiopia.

Photo: Pablo Tosco / Oxfam Intermón

As you will see below, we have assisted 4.5 million people in Ethiopia.  We have been supplying vital  food parcels of maize, lentils, cooking oil and salt.

4.5 million individuals have been reached in Ethiopia

  • We are still pushing to reach all 7.2 million individuals affected. To date we have managed to address the immediate needs of 63% of those at risk.

3.9 million people in Somalia have received supplies

  • The good news is that 75% of vulnerable individuals have been supported, thanks to you.
  • However, we are still working towards reaching a total of 5.2 million people in need.

585,404 people have been supported in Kenya

  • We are sorry to say that much more aid is needed here. We have reached just 14% of the vulnerable population.

  • Due to our funding gap, we are far behind our target of reaching 4.1 million.

Our promise to you is that we will continue to focus the world’s attention on, continue to amplify the voices of, and continue to request support for - the people suffering in East Africa.

Note from Clare Cronin, Oxfam Ireland:

I will be travelling to Kenya at the end of August to see what more Oxfam Ireland can do. Please watch out for the trip report, which you should receive in mid-September.

I will arrive in Nairobi for urgent discussions at the Oxfam Head Office. I will then travel to determine where the needs are greatest in the north of the country, where the Hunger Crisis has reached emergency levels. I will assess the situation first-hand and report back on the needs and how best they can be addressed.

Please be confident that while the Hunger Crisis has not abated, we are, and will continue, doing all that we can to save lives and prevent people’s suffering.

I promise you, that together, we will continue pushing for justice.  

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