Hunger Crisis

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

The face of famine and hunger: ‘I give them tea and water to fill their stomachs’

At a site for displaced people in Pulka, northeast Nigeria, families arrive daily seeking safety, shelter, food, and clean water. 

Numbers tell only part of the story. Behind the statistics lies the anguish of parents struggling to keep their families alive.

Across Africa and in parts of the southern Arabian Peninsula a massive hunger crisis is threatening the lives of 30 million people. Some of them in an area of South Sudan are already enduring famine conditions.

Photo: Tom Saater/Oxfam

The scale of this disaster is shocking. But numbers have a way of numbing us. They can be too massive to personalise—until you listen to the stark words of a father unable to earn enough to feed his family or hear the anguish of a mother too hungry herself to produce milk for her newborn. With stories, statistics hit home.

In the photo essay below, you’ll meet some of the people struggling to survive the conflicts, drought, and terrible hunger crisis those events have triggered.

Fekri

Photo: Omar Algunaid/Oxfam

Fekri, 40, pictured here with an Oxfam-supplied hygiene kit, is a father of four living in Al-Jalilah, Yemen. “Life is difficult these days,” he says. “We cannot afford all the essential items. More than half of our money is spent on water.” 

Ahmed and Dolah

Photo: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam

Ahmed, 45, and Dolah, 40, live in Khamer City, Yemen, with their eight children. Their sole source of income is Ahmed’s cobbling, but most days, he returns from the market empty-handed. Dolah goes begging at the market, hoping to collect some money or bread for the children, but she’s usually faced with verbal harassment. They hope that the war will end soon so that their children can sleep safely, free of hunger. 

Majok

Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder

Majok is waiting to register for a World Food Programme distribution later in the month. He is one of hundreds of people moving from the islands to the mainland in Nyal, South Sudan, in search of food and safety. Younger family members had to help carry him during the one-and-a-half-hour trek through the swamps to make sure he was physically present for registration. 

Deqa

Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

Eighteen days before this photo of Deqa was taken in Somaliland in northern Somalia, she gave birth to her sixth child, a son who has been experiencing stomach troubles. At the moment, Daqa, who is 26, is on her own: Her husband is away tending to a goat and the single camel they have left from their herd of 200. “We eat once a day—only rice,” she said. It’s not nearly enough to meet the needs of her growing children. “I give them tea and water to fill their stomachs,” Deqa added.

Adan

Photo:Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

“Water is our main worry,” said Adan, a 58-year-old herder who has resettled in the Garadag district of Somaliland in northern Somalia with his five children. The family has moved many times in the past six months in a constant search for water. “We came here because we wanted to be closer to a water point, but the women have just got back and the water they collected is so hard and salty that we cannot even use it to dissolve milk powder. We cannot give milk to our children,” he said.

Yana

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

When Boko Haram attacked her village in Nigeria during a wedding—taking the bride and other women—Yana, 27, fled with her four children. She now lives in the Kawar Mali ward in Maidiguiri, once the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency before the army expelled the group. Today, thousands of people displaced by the violence have found refuge in the area.

Millions in Yemen knowingly pushed to the brink of famine, warns Oxfam

March 23rd, 2017

Fighters in the Yemen war and their international backers are knowingly pushing the country to the brink of famine, Oxfam warned today, ahead of the two year anniversary of the escalation of the conflict. Nearly 7 million people have been pushed to the brink of starvation and 70 per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian aid.

Oxfam is calling for urgent action on two fronts: an immediate resumption of the peace process and for donors to provide the additional $2.1bn the UN says is needed for the humanitarian response. Currently the appeal is only 7 per cent funded.

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “If the parties to the conflict – and those fuelling it with arm sales – continue to ignore Yemen’s food crisis, they will be responsible for a famine.

“The people of Yemen are being starved to death and may not survive the situation much longer. A fully funded humanitarian response is vital to prevent countless people dying needlessly but ultimately what Yemenis need is an end to the fighting.All sides to the conflict need to understand that famine is the real enemy of Yemen. Preventing famine must take priority over any side’s military aims. The world cannot wait for famine to be declared in Yemen or it will be too late.”

Airstrikes and fighting have killed more than 7,600 people, including over 4,600 civilians, forced over 3 million people from their homes and left 18.8 million people – 70 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, the greatest number in any country in the world.

Ports, roads and bridges, along with warehouses, farms and markets have been regularly destroyed by the Saudi-led coalition, draining the country’s food stocks. The Houthi led authority is delaying the delivery of life-saving relief, and sometimes detaining aid workers. This, coupled with a flattened economy, has created an abyss of hunger and led 6.8 million people to the brink of famine.

A blockade has been imposed on Yemen, preventing food coming into the country. While this has been partially eased, new restrictions on shipping and the destruction of many port facilities, such as the cranes of Al-Hudaydah port in August 2015, are punishing the Yemeni population and the country’s food supplies are running a critically low.

Fighting on Yemen’s west coast escalated last month, especially around Al-Hudaydah and Mocha ports, which risks cutting off vital supplies to millions of people. In a worst-case scenario where food imports drop substantially or where conflict prevents supplies being moved around the country, famine is possible.

An Oxfam food survey of 2,000 families who have been forced to flee their homes in north-west Yemen, between November and December 2016, found that 85 percent of people were going hungry. The only options they have are to reduce the amount of food they eat or feed what little they have to their children and go hungry themselves. They skip meals and end up buying food of lesser quality, often on credit. Some have no source of food at all and only survive thanks to humanitarian aid and people’s generosity.

In order to save the lives of millions of starving people, Oxfam is urging the United Nations Secretary General to pressure all parties to the conflict to resume peace talks, to reach a negotiated peace agreement and improve the economic situation in the country.

Oxfam is calling for all land, sea and air routes to Yemen to remain open and for attacks targeting military objects related to supply routes and infrastructure to not disproportionately affect civilians in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.

Oxfam is also helping people facing starvation in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria. In South Sudan, Oxfam is distributing food to over 415,000 people as well as providing over 140,000 people with clean water and sanitation. The agency is also helping over 300,000 in Nigeria, 255,000 people in the Southern Somali region of Ethiopia and has begun a response to the drought in Somalia with immediate plans to reach a minimum of 10,000 people with clean water, sanitation and cash assistance for food.

The public can support Oxfam Ireland’s Hunger Crisis Appeal at: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger

ENDS

 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview on the ground in the region and also here in Ireland, including Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

CONTACT: To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN YEMEN

  • We have reached more than a million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, food vouchers and other essential aid since July 2015
  • We have given cash to more 205,000 people so families can buy food or livestock
  • 35,000 have taken part in our cash-for-work programmes

Fighting famine in East Africa, Nigeria and Yemen. Join us.

Across the world, millions of children, women and men are starving due to a devastating food crisis. A catastrophic combination of conflict and drought has left them facing terrifying food shortages – and there is no end in sight.

In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in East Africa, more than 19 million people are on the brink of starvation, while war in South Sudan has forced more than 3 million from their homes, and left millions more desperate for food. In February of this year, South Sudan became the first country in the world to declare famine since 2011.  

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, Fadumo lost three of her children – her triplets – to malnutrition when they were less than a month old. 

The 32-year-old farmer said: “They died because of a lack of food – they were malnourished. They were less than one month old. First one child died, then two more. I was afraid.

“How can anyone be happy when they have lost three children?”

Meanwhile, the drought has claimed two-thirds of her livestock.

“I had shoats and camels,” she explained. “Before, I used to have 60 animals, now I just have 20. I have one camel which is still alive.”

Now she fears for the lives of her remaining children and said: “What will they eat? We are getting some help – have some food and water.”

But she added: “We need many things. We need food which is nourishing. Food is our biggest need.”

Elsewhere, parts of Nigeria – where at least 4.4 million people are experiencing crisis levels of hunger – are also thought to be in the grip of famine. However, the situation in the country is so volatile due to conflict that it has been almost impossible to confirm that famine has taken hold.

And in Yemen, ongoing fighting between pro-government and rebel forces has left more than 17 million people on the brink of starvation. Without a massive humanitarian response, it will be impossible to avert famine.

Millions of people – in different parts of the world – have one thing in common: they are all experiencing the devastating impact of severe hunger on a daily basis.

Oxfam is supporting communities facing famine and hunger by distributing emergency food supplies and providing clean water and sanitation as well as providing cash or cash vouchers so people can buy what they need locally, supporting local business. We are working to prevent fatal diseases such as cholera by getting clean water to the most vulnerable, and to support them get their crops growing once again so that they can feed themselves and their families.

We are already helping over one million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 300,000 in Nigeria, 255,000 people in the Southern Somali region of Ethiopia and plan to begin a response to the drought in Somalia.

In situations where hunger and malnutrition are rife, it is usually the children who suffer the most. Even if they manage to survive prolonged periods of extreme hunger, they often pay the price in the long term as they lose their immunity and their ability to fight disease.

Like countless other infants and children in South Sudan, Tabitha’s baby daughter is in danger of becoming severely malnourished. 

Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

Tabitha’s daughter is sucking on a dry “Tuok” – a dry seed from a type of palm tree which is eaten when there is nothing else left.

Tabitha fled with her baby to seek refuge in Garbek, a small community in Unity State, after they were chased out of their home when violence broke out.

Now, with food so scarce, Tabitha is desperate – and resorts to eating whatever she can get her hands on.

“We feed on water lilies, fish and anything we could find in the river,” said Tabitha, who also lost most of her animals during her journey.

“What we currently need is food [and] medication. The more time it takes the worse it shall be for us.”

We’re determined to act quickly to ensure that mothers like Fadumo and Tabitha do not see their children go hungry. We have already reached many thousands of people with food, water, sanitation and support – but we are most concerned about the people we have yet to reach. 

Hunger Crisis Appeal: major food shortages across Africa

20 February 2017

I am Colm Byrne, Oxfam’s humanitarian programme manager. I have just returned from Niger, a country in the Lake Chad region in West Africa where already pockets of famine have been reported and large numbers of people are dying due to malnutrition and diarrhoea.  As you may have heard in the news, famine has recently been declared in South Sudan. This is another country where I have seen first-hand the scale of the hunger crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.

With household food stocks scarce and food prices rising in the absence of production, many families are struggling to survive in the Lake Chad region where some seven million people simply cannot find enough food to eat.

Across the Chad Basin region, new mothers, their children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable as a result of the hunger crisis gripping the region where currently 1 out of every 3 children is suffering from malnutrition.

Above: Aamin, who is two and half years old and badly malnourished is held by his mother Aisha, 35, at at a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Oxfam is helping people here with sanitation and protection issues. 

Hunger, wherever it exists, is cruel. Worst of all, its deadly. Malnutrition is one of the largest causes of child death in this region – and children in drought-affected regions such as this are most at risk.

I heard so many harrowing stories of the hunger faced by vulnerable people. Families like Aisha* and her young son Aamin* pictured above are an all-too common sight for Oxfam staff. Aisha is living in a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri in Niger, and two-and-a-half-year-old Aamin is severely malnourished.

By donating now, you can act quickly to make sure that people like Aisha and Aamin do not go hungry. Your support can help stop people’s rapid decline into malnutrition or famine.

We’ve already reached many thousands of people with food, water, livelihoods support, sanitation and hygiene kits in response to the hunger crisis in Niger and the Lake Chad region. We have distributed cooking equipment and provided seeds and tools to help traders and farmers. But our aim this year is to reach over 1.5 million people with life-saving assistance before it is too late.

Can you please help us reach that target?

In southern Africa, Malawi is also experiencing a major food crisis. The worst drought in decades has meant that people cannot grown food to feed their families. February is the lean time’ between harvests when typically there is little food to eat. But, today, there is barely any food at al. In a country like Malawi, where 9 in 10 people rely on farming, this drought has brought communities to the brink of catastrophe and a national state of emergency has been declared.

Oxfam is supporting people such as Julis Magawa in Malawi. The eyes of this proud and dignified man betray his sadness and the hardship this family man has endured.

He told us that his children had been crying because they were so hungry. I can only imagine how devastating it must be to know that day after day your children don’t have enough food to eat. Like so many others in Malawi, Julius has had to resort to desperate measures just to keep his family alive.

Speaking to Oxfam, Julius confessed he’d been so afraid for his wife Lucy and their children that he’d been driven to do something he hated doing. He’d been forced to break the law. Julius has again and again gone into the nearby forest and cut down trees for firewood. He’d sold this firewood for a pittance – but it was just enough as he told our staff with starting honesty. “It’s the only way I can feed my children.”

How would any of us behave in this situation? I simply don’t know. But I do know that Julius doesn’t want to break the law. He just wants to keep his children alive.

Above: Julius and Lucy struggle to feed their children.

With a targeted injection of cash from Oxfam, we can help him to buy food from the local market so he can feed his family over the coming months. We can also give him the seeds to grow new crops. That way we can help Julius earn his living safely – and keep the whole family out of poverty.

By sending a gift today, you can help Dads like Julius to support their family in a safe and sustainable way. You can help mums like Aisha to feed their children without having to resort to begging.

The displaced families and communities I visited count among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We now live in a world where 1 in 9 people goes to bed hungry every night. It’s obscene that while this is happening across the world today we know that just 8 men have as much wealth as the 3.6 million people who make up the poorer half of humanity.

We will not eliminate extreme poverty unless countries begin to close the gap between the richest and the rest. But in the meantime, together we can help beat the hunger crisis that has countries like Malawi and Niger in its grip.

Please don’t delay and make a donation today. Thank you.   

West Africa Crisis: food shortages threaten millions

The devastating conflict in West Africa is continuing to cause severe food shortages, plunging the region into a serious humanitarian crisis, and leaving nearly 11 million people in need of emergency aid.

Violent acts by militant insurgency group Boko Haram over the last seven years, along with military operations to counter them, have displaced around 2.6 million people in the Lake Chad Basin region, which is made up of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. This is Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis.

The number of displaced people in the most affected areas has tripled over the last two years. Most of the displaced families are sheltered by communities that count among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Food insecurity and malnutrition in the affected region have reached alarming levels. Thousands of people are estimated to have died already, many of these young children. There is a strong likelihood that at least 400,000 people could currently be experiencing famine in North East Nigeria.

FORCED TO FLEE

Since Boko Haram kidnapped Kadija* and forced her to marry a fighter to whom she bore a child, Kadija* faces stigma from her community, as does her child who is seen to carry ‘bad blood’. She currently lives in a camp for people displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram because her father disowned her. Kadija* was taken to the bush where she gave birth with no medical facilities. Once she deemed the baby strong enough she made her escape.

After fleeing from Boko Haram she was detained by the Nigerian military. She said: “I was kept with other women who had been forcibly married. We were tortured and dehumanised by the military. We were called wives of Boko Haram and we spent one month in detention. It was a harrowing experience. Then they released me.”

Kadija*, 18, holds her baby at a house in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Kadija and her baby aren’t the only ones struggling in north-eastern Nigeria right now. Brothers Digma* and Omar* (pictured below) are helping their father Hassan* in a field he rents on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria, as it’s the school holidays. Their father Hassan* was a prosperous farmer before fear of violence from Boko Haram forced him to flee his village.

Hassan* said: “We were so afraid, even if we had food we couldn’t eat what was put on the table. It was terrible. We couldn’t even come to the farm. If we came to the farm Boko Haram would come on motorcycles and kill or abduct you. We had to leave our farm and our livestock and run to the city. Before Boko Haram attacked I had a bigger farm but now I am too scared to farm it – maybe next year.”

While Hassan’s* old farm previously left him with surplus to sell, he now has to work as a labourer in order to make up the shortfall in food for his family. He said: “I have to feed my six children, my wife, my grandmother and two grandsons. How many days will [this food] last us? It’s just not going to be enough. The government have not supported us. We have to do things ourselves.

“This land has been worked on for so many years. At the other farm we had millet, sorghum, groundnuts and beans and the harvest was great. The fields there are much denser and much richer compared to this farm. The soil at the other farm is loamy. This is just sandy.”

Brothers Digma* (aged 8, and Omar* (10) stand in a field their father rents on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

The conflict between Boko Haram and governments in this region has affected some of the world’s poorest people. Most of them in rural areas are farmers, and many like Hassan* have not been able to grow any crops for three years. They are in urgent need of food, water, and medical care. They are living in camps for displaced people and among host communities and are struggling to survive.

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING

The situation is dire across this region. People are in urgent need of food, water, medical care, shelter and safety.

Oxfam has helped more than 250,000 people in Nigeria, Niger and Chad since it began responding to the crisis two years ago.

In Nigeria Oxfam is distributing emergency food support food and cooking equipment, providing people with clean water and better sanitation, as well as seeds and tools to help traders and farmers. We have also set up community protection groups for women to give them information about access to support facilities if they have suffered from sexual violence and exploitation.

In Niger, Oxfam is rehabilitating and constructing boreholes to provide safe, clean water to people who have fled their homes and communities, and we are delivering life-saving food assistance to families severely affected by the crisis.

In Chad, Oxfam is distributing cash and tarpaulins for shelter, and providing clean water to help prevent the spread of diseases.

We are ramping up our programmes and are seeking funds to expand our response to help 1.5 million people in the next 15 months.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Oxfam is urgently seeking funds to help where it’s needed most.

Please help the people of West Africa – give what you can and get food and clean drinking water to people who urgently need it.

* All names have been changed to protect identities.

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