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.

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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Starvation in the Horn of Africa is political failure

Hirsiyo Mohamed and her daughter, Maryam, at an aid camp in Doolow, southern Somalia in early May. File photograph: Malin Fezehai/New York Times

Just over 10 years ago, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson travelled to the Horn of Africa with Irish development and humanitarian organisations to sound the alarm on a devastating hunger crisis unfolding in the region. More than 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were at risk due to one of the worst droughts to strike the region in 60 years. As a result of a delayed global response, the 2011 famine claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people in Somalia, half of them children under five.

The international community swore never again. Yet, a decade later, it is estimated that one person is likely to be dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Irish development and humanitarian organisations have come together once more to call for urgent and collective action to tackle catastrophic hunger levels in the Horn of Africa and reduce the risk of widespread famine.

The figures are stark. The number of people experiencing extreme hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has more than doubled since last year — from over 10 million to more than 23 million today, with nearly half a million people in parts of Somalia and Ethiopia facing famine-like conditions.

The United Nations has warned that escalating global food insecurity is putting 750,000 people across five countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan — at immediate risk of “starvation or death”. The UN also estimates that 1.5 million Somali children under the age of five will face acute malnutrition throughout this year, including over 385,000 who are likely to suffer severe levels.

Starvation is a political failure — it was in 2011 and it is today. The potential deaths of hundreds and thousands of people, especially children, may come despite clear, repeated and credible warnings from the humanitarian community. The failure to adequately address the deadly combination of climate change, conflict and the economic impact of Covid-19 has left the region in crisis and lives hanging in the balance.

The crisis is now being exacerbated by a global food shortage triggered by the conflict in Ukraine. East Africa imports 90 per cent of its wheat — a staple food for most people in the region — from Ukraine and Russia. Disruptions in grain supply, in addition to soaring prices of oil and fertilisers, are driving regional food prices to an all-time high. In Somalia alone, the prices for staple grains are more than double those of last year.

Equally important is the escalating climate crisis. The Horn of Africa is in the grip of its fourth successive dry rainy season. This year’s March-May season is predicted to be the driest on record. In some places, it hasn’t rained since 2019.

The reality is the most vulnerable communities who are least responsible for the climate crisis are being hardest hit. Rich and industrialised countries have contributed around 92 per cent of excess historical emissions and 37 per cent of current emissions, whereas Africa’s current emissions stand at just 4 per cent. The collective carbon emissions of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are 0.1% of the global total.

Meanwhile, conflict — exacerbated by the climate crisis — is also fuelling the hunger crisis. Conflict damages food systems, limiting the ability of farmers to access their land and their pastures.

Ireland has been outspoken at the UN Security Council on highlighting the impact of conflict, climate change and hunger on the ability of people to produce and access food essential to their survival. This voice is needed now more than ever.

We are calling on the Irish Government to demonstrate and hold firm leadership at an international level to ensure an immediate and radical mobilisation of aid in the region. This includes ensuring that rich nations, as well as our own, meet the UN appeal for Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia to help save lives now. The UN estimates that humanitarian funding of US$4.4 billion (€4.2 billion) is required to provide life-saving assistance and protection in the region. At the time of writing, the appeal is drastically underfunded.

Each day of delay unnecessarily exacerbates human suffering, increases the scale of the crisis, and raises the cost of the response.

The members of Dóchas are coming together to sound the alarm on extreme hunger and do all we can to avoid widespread famine. Warnings can no longer be ignored instead, it is imperative that governments, including Ireland, and the international community act now to prevent the catastrophic humanitarian disaster that is unfolding before our very eyes.

Jane-Ann McKenna is chief executive of Dóchas, the Irish network of international development and humanitarian organisations.

Information source, The Irish Times.

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Climate and Economic Shocks Create Crisis in East Africa

Abdulahi in front of his homestead in the Puntland region of Somalia where he raises cattle. He says his livestock is heavily affected by the drought and lack of pasture, and he is worried about the future of his family. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

Oxfam is responding in four countries and urging more international assistance to help people facing severe hunger.

In the northern Somali state of Puntland, pervasive drought is endangering the lives of people and their livestock. “Within my lifetime, this is the worst drought I have ever experienced,” says Abdulahi Farah Isse, 27, who has lost nearly 40 of his 100 cows in the last few months. He says that it is not unusual for dry conditions in some years to kill livestock, “but it’s never been like this.”

“I am very much worried for this drought and the near future,” Isse says abut the hunger crisis in Puntland. “If these cattle all die, the people will be at risk. Our children need milk from the cows, which is a challenge now but we are trying to do our best so our people will survive.”

The problem people like Isse are facing in Puntland is not just a lack of rain, but a combination of prolonged climate-induced drought, conflict, the economic fallout from COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine that has caused a spike in grain prices across the world.

Ahmed, who works for Oxfam in Somalia, checks a completely empty water storage facility built by Oxfam & KAALO Aid & Development in Puntland. Lack of rain for nearly four years has dried up water resources across the region. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

These factors are affecting people across Somalia, where 90 percent of the country is experiencing drought, as well as other parts of East Africa. One person is likely dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, according to estimates by Oxfam and Save the Children in a report highlighting the world’s repeated failure to stave off preventable disasters. The report, titled Dangerous Delays 2: The Cost of Inaction, published 10 years after famine in Somalia killed more than 260,000, says that nearly half a million people across parts of Somalia and Ethiopia are facing extreme hunger and famine-like conditions. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are suffering extreme hunger.

What Oxfam is doing to prevent extreme hunger

Oxfam is working with local organisations to reach more than two million people across four countries: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and in South Sudan, where five years of seasonal flooding has displaced 350,000 people.

In Somalia, Oxfam is working with local organisations, such as KAALO Aid and Development, to provide lifesaving water, sanitation, and health support. Together, we are drilling wells, distributing hygiene kits (to help protect communities from water-borne diseases), distributing cash, seeds, tools, and training farmers in small-scale greenhouse farming.

Oxfam is working with a network of organisations in northern Kenya’s arid zones. These organisations are providing cash to help people buy food and other essential items. So far we have distributed cash to 40,000 people. We are repairing wells and other water systems, and promoting good hygiene to help people prevent COVID-19 and other diseases in eight of the most hard-to-reach, and worst-affected, counties.

To respond to the severe drought in Ethiopia, Oxfam is scaling up our work in the southern Somali region to reach 180,000 people with support for small businesses, vaccination and veterinary treatment of livestock, agricultural support, and cash-for-work projects.

Oxfam’s work with partners in South Sudan is helping people in five states and aims to reach 383,000 people with safe water, resources for sanitation and hygiene, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and support for people to build their incomes, such as seeds, tools, and fishing kits.

Oxfam is also advocating for governments and others to respond to the immediate crisis with humanitarian assistance, while also investing in programs and services that fight inequality and help people improve their lives over the long term and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

“We must respond now, at scale, to avert further tragedy,” the Dangerous Delays 2 report concludes. “But we must also learn the lessons of the past decade to ensure that next time we act pre-emptively to avoid the crisis. As climate catastrophe threatens a future of increased crises, we dare not fail that promise again.”

“We used to have more than 150 goats, all of them but two have died because of the drought. Which is devastating…goats generate milk, meat, and money if we sell them.” Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

A Dangerous Delay

The climate crisis is devastating lives and livelihoods. And it is the people least responsible who are paying the heaviest price.

Across East Africa alone, millions of people are suffering severe hunger because of a deadly combination of conflict, extreme weather – flooding in some countries, drought in others — and the economic fallout of COVID-19. It’s time to act.

4 links between the war in ukraine and the horn of africa hunger crisis

A woman with two children and carrying bags walk on a road to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj. Photo: Peter Lazar/AFP via Getty Images

The world is facing a powerful convergence of crises. Conflict, COVID-19 and climate change are all contributing to record emergency aid needs.

The devastating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reminded us all of the need for global solidarity. But as the world watches Ukraine, we must also remember other crises around the globe. This is important since the economic impacts of the Ukraine crisis – including unprecedented food and energy price inflation – will be felt by the most vulnerable in our deeply unequal world.

One of the situations Oxfam is most concerned about is the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa – spanning Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Here are some similarities, and connections, between this crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Sowda Omar Abdile makes black tea in her home in Wajir County, located in Kenya’s northeast. Photo: Khadija Farah/Oxfam

The Ukraine crisis will worsen hunger in the Horn of Africa

In recent years, conflict, COVID-19 and the climate crisis have deepened catastrophic food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Over 14 million people in the region – about half of them children – were already experiencing extreme hunger. Now, the Ukraine crisis threatens to make things even worse. The war in Ukraine is disrupting supply chains and causing food prices to skyrocket. This will push more people to the brink of famine in the Horn of Africa, which imports 90% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. The number of people on the edge of starvation will rise to 20 million by the middle of 2022 if rains continue to fail and prices continue to rise.

In both crises, women and girls are suffering most

Humanitarian crises are hard for everyone, but particularly for women and girls. This is the case in both the Ukraine and Horn of Africa crises.

In the Horn of Africa – especially in conflict-affected areas – women and girls are facing extraordinary dangers to secure food for their families, including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. Food insecurity also has tragic consequences for young girls. Desperate families sometimes resort to harmful coping mechanisms like pulling their daughters out of school or marrying them off in exchange for a dowry to secure some income. Since women are often responsible for caring for, and nourishing, their families, they tend to eat last and least. This makes them more likely to suffer from malnutrition, with consequences for their own health and the health of the babies they are carrying or breastfeeding.

In the Ukraine crisis, women and children make up 90 per cent of those fleeing the country. The gender and age profile of these refugees – who have lost everything and are often forced to put their trust in strangers – significantly increases the risk of gender-based violence, trafficking and abuse.

Both crises are equally urgent

The escalating violence and massive displacement in Ukraine are shocking and have rightly captured the world’s attention. The geopolitical significance of the Ukraine crisis, together with 24/7 media coverage, has led to near record levels of funding for the humanitarian response. This fast and generous support stands in stark contrast to the attention given to other crises – including the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Despite increasing needs, the humanitarian response for the region is woefully underfunded.

While the world watches Ukraine, we must remember the millions of people in neglected crises who are also suffering and in need of urgent support. Meeting humanitarian needs in Ukraine is vital, but donors must not displace funds that are badly needed to respond to challenges elsewhere. They must dig deeper and get creative. We shouldn’t need to choose between helping a refugee from Ukraine or a Somali farmer who lost her harvest. All lives are equally valuable. Both these humanitarian crises are worthy of urgent support.

Oxfam and local partners provide packages that include hygiene products and non-perishable food items to internally displaced people at the Ebnat aid distribution centre in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Photo: Serawit Atnafu/Oxfam

Oxfam is responding to both crises

When disaster strikes – whether it’s war or a hunger crisis – Oxfam responds with high quality lifesaving assistance, emergency supplies and essential protection for the most vulnerable.

In Europe, Oxfam is working to set up safe travel routes for Ukrainian refugees. We are supporting partner organizations who are providing vulnerable families with essential items like food, water, warm clothing, hygiene equipment and legal support.

In the Horn of Africa, in response to the worsening food crisis in the region, Oxfam is providing cash and vouchers. Communities will be able to use these to purchase essential food items and to meet basic nutritional needs. We also provide agricultural inputs, including seeds and tools, with training on more climate-resistant production to better prepare farmers for the future.

Since the hunger crisis in much of the region is caused by a prolonged drought, we are trucking water to remote communities and drilling wells to get clean water flowing. Many families rely on livestock for food, so we are supporting livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns. We are also helping people who have been displaced by conflict and drought by training protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distributing solar lamps to protect women and girls at night.

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