More than 50 million people living in East Africa are in danger of facing acute levels of hunger, as rains fail and cause difficulty for the region’s food production. According to the latest Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional focus on food crises report, compiled by the United Nations (UN), this is increasing malnutrition and food insecurity in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and South Sudan.
“Now more than ever, we must implement short-term livelihood-saving responses with long-term resilience building aimed at addressing the root causes of food crises in our region,” said Chimimba David Phiri, FAO subregional coordinator for Eastern Africa. “The current food security situation across the Horn of Africa is dire after four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years, or since the beginning of the satellite era.”
Extreme scarcity of food
According to projections, level 5 – which denotes an extreme scarcity of food – would be experienced by roughly 300 000 people in South Sudan and Somalia this year. Famine is also a possibility in eight regions of Somalia should broad crop and livestock production fail. When compared to the previous year, when 42 million individuals experienced severe acute food insecurity, the situation in 2022 is far worse. Nearly 22% of the world’s population was in crisis or worse in 2021, with an estimated 10 million children under five suffering from acute malnutrition.
“In addition, 24% of the world’s 51 million internally displaced were also in IGAD countries, mainly Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan,” said Phiri.
Multiple shocks are becoming practically hard to handle due to a combination of macroeconomic difficulties, conflict, and climate extremes. A record-breaking multiseasonal drought brought by by climate change and La Nia was broken by one of the worst March to May wet seasons in the previous 70 years.
On the brink of starvation
“Conflict, climate extremes, economic shocks, rising costs and now the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on food and energy prices are pushing millions towards starvation in Eastern Africa,” said Michael Dunford, WFP regional director for Eastern Africa.
To increase the response to food insecurity, which now affects more than 500 000 people in the country’s northeast, the UN team in Uganda is collaborating closely with the authorities and other partners. In the past five months, more than 40% of the local population has experienced severe food insecurity, in part because of a drought brought on by climate change. Of the approximately $19 million needed, the WFP has raised $7.4 million, and it is getting ready to help 217 000 people with feeding programs in three priority areas.
As it continues to provide treatment for those with acute malnutrition in all districts, the UN agency is also distributing rations to households with undernourished children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers in six districts. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised more than $2.4 million to assist Ugandans in responding to the health effects of the drought. The UN team, led by resident coordinator Susan Namondo, is also working with officials on a plan that will better equip Karamoja, the area most impacted, to respond to shocks, particularly through early warning systems.