Global food prices skyrocket due to Ukraine conflict, threatening millions already facing extreme hunger

Global food prices skyrocket due to Ukraine conflict, threatening millions already facing extreme hunger

Oxfam urges international community to respond to hunger crisis in East Africa before it’s too late

 

Tuesday 22 March 2022

 

Over 161 million people across 42 countries are currently suffering from acute hunger. Across East Africa alone, 21 million people are facing severe levels of hunger due to conflict, flooding, crop pests and a devastating two-year drought, unprecedented in 40 years. This number is set to rise to as many as 28 million if the March rains fail.

 

Today, Oxfam urged the international community to respond with a massive, “no regrets” mobilisation of humanitarian aid to prevent destitution across East Africa. With the unfolding crisis in Ukraine taking their attention, the aid agency warned that there is a real danger the international community will not respond adequately until it’s too late.

 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and beyond are experiencing an unfolding catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive this month, full recovery after two years of drought will be near impossible unless there is urgent action by the international community today.

 

“While we respond to the escalating crisis in Ukraine, we must also respond to its wider repercussions on the global food system which will reverberate worldwide, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable people 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.

 

“Ireland must act unilaterally and at UN and EU levels to ensure that the negative impact on supply, trade and price of food due to the Ukrainian conflict will not affect those already experiencing or most vulnerable to food shortages throughout the world, including across East Africa.”

 

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. However, 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.

 

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 fertiliser, food prices are beginning to skyrocket. They hit 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.

 

Nyadang Martha, from Akobo in South Sudan, told Oxfam: “All the 40 years of my life, I have never seen anything like what is happening here in Akobo. For the past four years, it is either flood, drought, famine, violence, or COVID-19. This is just too much. I am tired of living. If it continues like this, I doubt if my girls will become full adults.”

 

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.

 

Idris Akhdar from Wajir County, North Eastern Kenya, said: “Our team have met desperate people. People who are hungry, who are thirsty, and who are about to lose hope. In the last few days, I have seen across the region - Somali region in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya - the same hunger and destitution all over. We appeal to the international community to help.” (Idris is part of WASDA, a Kenyan organisation partnering with Oxfam for over 20 years.)

 

Oxfam is working with local partners to redouble its support for those impacted by the East African hunger crisis, aiming to reach over 1.5 million people most in need, including many displaced, with life-saving water, cash, shelter and sanitation facilities.

 

Clarken continued: “The people of East Africa cannot wait. The hunger crisis is worsening by the day. Oxfam is calling on all donors to urgently fill the UN humanitarian appeal funding gap and to get funds as quickly as possible to local humanitarian organisations. Ireland and other EU member states should increase their allocations to the underfunded US$327million World Food Programme appeal, which aims to support around 4.5 million people affected by drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with life-saving aid. We must act decisively in our trade and agriculture policies to stabilise food prices and protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from further food price shocks. And we especially call upon the governments from grain exporting countries to do all they can to find suitable alternatives to the imminent disruption in the supply chain from Ukraine.

 

“This is not a time for apathy, distraction or delay – it is a time to act and we must act now.”

 

ENDS

 

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

 

Notes to the editors:   

STATS ON THE EAST AFRICA HUNGER CRISIS:

  • 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. Millions of others had to flee their farmlands and homes by conflicts especially around Ethiopia – where 9.4m people now need urgent humanitarian aid.
  • The region has suffered from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years and flash flooding that have 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. Nearly half of all households in Kenya are having to borrow food or buy it on credit.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

OXFAM RESPONSE IN EAST AFRICA:

  •  In South Sudan: Oxfam has provided support to over 400,000 people and aims to reach and additional 240,000 people with safe water, sanitation and hygiene services and promotion, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and livelihood support like seeds, tools, fishing kits.
  • In Somalia, Oxfam aims to reach 420,000 people this year with lifesaving water, sanitation and health support, including drilling boreholes in water insecure areas, distributing hygiene kits, providing materials to help protect communities from water borne diseases, and distributing cash, seeds tools, and training farmers in small scale greenhouse farming. Oxfam will also support livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns together with the Ministry of Livestock, train community protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distribute solar lamps to protect women and girls at night. To date we have reached over 260,000 people.
  • In Kenya, Oxfam is currently supporting 40,000 people and planning to expand the support to approximately 240,000 people with cash transfers for food and other essential items and water, sanitation and hygiene activities such as repairing water points and boreholes to provide access to clean, safe water and hygiene promotion campaigns.
  • In Ethiopia, Oxfam has supported 170,000 people in Northern Ethiopia with lifesaving clean water, food, and cash assistance, particularly in conflict affected areas in South Tigray, Central Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Oxfam aims to reach an additional 750,000 women, men and children in Northern Ethiopia with emergency food packages, livelihoods assistance, clean water, sanitation and hygiene kits and protection until March 2023. Together with our partners, we are also scaling up response in the Somali Region to respond to the effects of the drought.
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