Hunger Crisis

  • Millions of families are at risk of starvation as famine threatens parts of South Sudan as well as Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.

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.

350,000 children are at risk in Somalia

Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib.

Your support is vital

In April, the UN predicted that 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in Somalia could die by the summer if the world did not take urgent action. That’s the equivalent of over four times the capacity of Croke Park. The impact of the food crisis in Somalia is hitting the poorest and youngest hardest.

The 18-month-old baby girl (pictured above) from Garowe, Somalia was at risk, but her parents carried her and her five-year-old brother to an Oxfam-supported camp to get help. When her mother and father were forced to leave their land, they carried not only their two children but also their two remaining goats.

These goats were the final survivors from the family’s herd of 150. Before the drought, this family could rely on their herd for milk, meat, and money. Now the remaining goats are too weak to produce milk.

Four consecutive seasons of failed rains has left this family with nothing. Now they can no longer cope. They can no longer provide for themselves. They can no longer feed their children. They need urgent food aid.

We must tackle food insecurity and malnutrition immediately. Your support today could provide food to this family.


Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib.

Worst case scenario:

The image of Magda, shows what can happen without early intervention. Magda is fighting for her life. Her great-grandmother watches over her in Burao hospital. During her ten days there, she lost consciousness for four days due to severe malnutrition. Magda's mother is dependent on food from her family of pastoralist farmers. However, with two children and no income, she struggles to feed them as the region continues to suffer with the ongoing drought.

Oxfam’s response

We have been working in Somalia for over 40 years and are currently delivering a large-scale humanitarian response focusing on water, food, sanitation, and hygiene. Right now, our team in Somalia are working with the Water Ministry to drill four strategic boreholes so people can access safe, clean water. 650 families have received food to date, but ongoing registration is needed to ensure all vulnerable families in the region can be reached. An additional 1,230 families have already been identified and more continue to come forward.
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How Syria’s hunger crisis is fuelled by conflict, climate and Covid-19

5 May 2021

More than 200 NGOs recently published an open letter to all governments, relaying an urgent message: increase aid or 34 million people would be pushed to the brink of starvation this year. 

The NGOs’ call came one year after the UN warned of “famines of biblical proportions” due to the global spread of Covid-19 as well as more frequent natural disasters and climate change. Put simply, the UN said at the time, we were facing a “perfect storm”.

One year on and those warnings have gone unheeded. Rich donors have funded just five percent of the UN’s $7.8 billion food security appeal for 2021, while globally, world food prices reached a seven-year high in February of this year.

At the end of 2020, the UN estimated that 270 million people were either at high risk of, or already facing, acute levels of hunger. While 174 million people in 58 countries have reached that level already and are at risk of dying from malnutrition or lack of food, this figure is only likely to rise in the coming months if nothing is done immediately.

Conflict is the biggest driver of global hunger, which is also exacerbated by climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rafik sitting on rubble of his damaged house in Eastern Ghouta, Syria. Photo: Dania Kareh/Oxfam

Take Syria, a country where 12.4 million people – or 60 percent of the population – go to bed hungry every night, and 1.1. million people need humanitarian aid to survive.

March marked 10 years since the start of the Syrian conflict, a war that has led to tremendous human suffering and the largest refugee crisis in the worlds. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. More than 12 million people have fled their homes, many more than once.

Even before Covid-19, more than 80 percent of Syrians were estimated to be living below the poverty line. The cost of the average food basket in Syria increased by 249 percent in the 12 months up to October last, while the World Food Programme estimated last June that some 9.3 million people were food insecure. Over over two million more were at risk, it added, a rise of some 42 percent in just one year.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “While both the Irish government and public have been consistently generous in their support of aid efforts, global funding is not keeping pace with the increasing need – even with extreme hunger crises looming for millions more people across the world.”

Marwan*, one of 434 farmers who received saplings and seeds in Rural Damascus as a part of a project ran by Oxfam to help farmers remain self-sufficient. *Name changed to protect identity. Photo: Dania Kareh/Oxfam

Since the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in Syria, we have beefed up our response, distributing thousands of hygiene kits, cash, as well as providing seeds, seedlings and animal fodder to farmers in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and rural Damascus. We also distribute food to communities, train people to grow food and make a living and provide cash for people who need it the most.

But if we want to ensure that millions of Syrians no longer go to bed hungry, the conflict must come to an end.

"Ireland, as a recently elected member of the UN Security Council, now has an important role in promoting respect of international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians in time of armed conflict,” added Jim Clarken.

At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN Secretary General called for a global ceasefire to address the pandemic but too few leaders have sought to implement it. Together, we must now push global leaders to support durable and sustainable solutions to conflict, and open pathways for humanitarians to access communities in conflict zones to save lives.
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It’s five years since war broke out in Yemen. I will never forget the terror in the eyes of my children.

Written by Manal, a humanitarian worker with Oxfam in Yemen.

When war first escalated in 2015, I was living happily with my family in Taiz city. It saddens me how the city I loved, the city that holds all my memories since I was a child turned into a ghost town full of death and fear overnight.

It all started with a blue spark that lit up the sky and invaded our houses and the rooms in which we silently hid. Then we heard the crack. That was the first missile to hit a building near us. After that, bombs fell everywhere; we thought we’d be next. We tried not to panic but panic was all we could feel.

The next day myself and my children went to say goodbye to a friend who was taking a trip abroad. We could hear tanks in the streets nearby and the roads were blocked. We got trapped in her house, separated from our families who kept calling to check if we were okay. I will never forget the terror in the eyes of my children.

We were trapped inside the house for three days. I remember the heavy sounds of gun fire and tanks screeching just a few kilometres away. There was no one else with us so we managed to survive with the limited food we had.

“I still remember the fear, oppression and humiliation that day brought. I cried so hard, I cried and cried, all the way back. I was terrified.”

This day was sadly just a sign of what was to come – the feelings of fear, paralysis and vulnerability. Five years later, that feeling of being trapped is one that I and other Yemeni women constantly feel. But what I and others strive to do is fight that feeling and do all that we can to lead, to help others, and to feel hope that this conflict will end, and our lives can return to normal.

At one stage, everything calmed down and people started to feel safe. That was until six missiles hit a nearby mosque destroying it completely. Most of the injured were women and children. While a close relative of mine was helping to rescue the injured, another airstrike took his life. We didn’t even have time to mourn him properly.

We were just one family out of millions forced from our homes and all that home means – family, memories, security, history, love. As Yemenis, we have been forced to live in schools, tents, mosques or with other friends and relatives. The risk of experiencing violence, instability and illness has increased. We are all farther from our support networks and are forced to walk long distances for things like water, food or other resources. A life of displacement feels tenuous.

On the road to seek refuge, I would often close my eyes, allowing my memories to start play in my mind. I would be back with my family, as we gathered on Fridays at my grandfather’s house to eat lunch and then sing and dance with our neighbours until midnight.

I would remember how peaceful life was and how my friends and I had dreamed of the future. We loved adventure. We sometimes camped in nearby villages and mountains, enjoying nature together while sharing our hopes and memories.

All of that seems like a dream now. We still hope to go back home one day, where we belong and where our memories reside. It’s ironic how a single terrible memory of a blue glowing light can bring an end to warm memories.

Manal prepares cash transfers with her Oxfam colleagues. Photo: Oxfam

I now live with my mother, sister and two brothers. My father passed away over 15 years ago. I am the oldest and the only provider for my family. I love them and I try to take care of their needs the best I can. They are my only support in this world and to them I am the same.

As an Oxfam worker, it brings joy to my heart when I see how the aid that we provide helps people smile and brings them hope at a time of displacement and vulnerability.

I have seen a lot during these five years of war, particularly how hard it is for women to survive these circumstances. Many women have become the sole caregivers and breadwinners – a huge burden to bear.

Job opportunities are scarcer and prices have soared, while suffocating social restrictions on women remain. When you are a woman in a country like Yemen, war becomes more difficult with each passing day. The struggle to survive gets harder, especially for the many women who have been forced to depend on men all their lives without proper education or skills to fall back on.

I am sharing my story as one of countless women who deserve more than just recognition.  Women across Yemen are rising every day, doing all they can in difficult conditions to protect their families and their communities. With an education and a good job that fills me with pride, I am one of the lucky ones. Worst-case scenarios for women and girls in Yemen after five years of war includes surviving sexual violence, malnutrition, abuse, early marriage and sometimes death.

Women who fled the Tahiz region of Yemen are now living in a makeshift camp in the countryside. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The women of Yemen had no hand in this war. All decisions were and are still taken by men. Violence is being perpetrated by men. Women have the strength to act together – to step out of the crowded rooms where we feel vulnerable and paralysed, to lead our families, communities and country. For the days ahead, I call on women to have an equal voice in ending this war and paving the way for a peaceful future for Yemen.

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, Oxfam teams have reached more than 3 million people with much-needed sanitation services, clean water, cash assistance and food vouchers. Even as COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, our staff continues to deliver aid, comfort and hope to the people of Yemen. But we need all the help we can get.

Please give what you can today.

Inside East Africa's massive locust infestation

Taking advantage of favourable breeding conditions, locusts hit farmers and herders in areas already reeling from climate shocks.

Desert locust infestations have moved across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and are now entering areas of northern Uganda. The insects are also threatening Sudan and South Sudan, and there are reports of locust swarms now in Tanzania.

map of affected areas
Map of affected areas. Credit: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

The desert locust is among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world: A large desert locust plague can contain up to 58 million individuals per square mile, with half a million locusts weighing approximately one ton. One ton of locusts eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2,500 people.

"We depend on livestock and if there is no fodder for our livestock, life will be difficult for us, we ask for help urgently," said Mohammed Hassan Abdille, a farmer from Bura Dhima in Tana River, Kenya. This is the worst locust crisis in 70 years for Kenya alone.

The locusts have hit the region after countries there were affected by huge droughts and in some areas flash floods. There are currently 22.8m people facing severe food insecurity in these countries following consecutive failed rainy seasons, unusual floods, and storms.

The fast-moving locust swarms have been made worse by the climate crisis because they are feeding on new vegetation, the result of unusual weather patterns. They are devastating pastures and grasslands and could ruin new food crops during the March-to-July growing season.

Oxfam's Response

Oxfam is gearing up its humanitarian operations and will work closely with local partners and communities. Program staff in the region report they aim to reach more than 190,000 of the most vulnerable people with cash assistance, livestock feed, seeds, and health services.

In Somalia, together with local partners, Oxfam intends to assist 11,670 households of the most vulnerable people. In Kenya, Oxfam will work in seven of the 13 affected counties to assist 3,000 households in the first phase of operations, and another 5,000 in the second. In Ethiopia, Oxfam aims to reach another 5,000 households with similar aid. Oxfam will need to secure more than €4.6 million (£3.8 million) to mount this response.

Unusual rains advance breeding

This outbreak has been exacerbated by climate change. Cyclones that struck the Arabian Peninsula last year created ideal conditions for desert locusts to multiply. The swarms crossed to the Horn of Africa, where unusually heavy rains late last year created favorable breeding conditions. Heavy rain leads to growth of vegetation in arid areas, providing locusts with more food, and the conditions needed to develop and reproduce.

You can help Oxfam respond to the locust crisis in East Africa.