East Africa facing ‘double-dip’ hunger emergency as poor rains, crop shortages and conflict threaten recovery from 2011 crisis
East Africa is facing a ‘double-dip’ hunger crisis that could plunge millions of people back into emergency levels of hunger and malnutrition, Save the Children has warned.
Early warning systems and the aid agency’s own analysis suggests that unless immediate preventative action is taken, any improvements in the situation following last year’s catastrophic food crisis could be wiped out by poor rains, crop shortages and difficulties in reaching conflict-affected areas.
Farmland and livestock across East Africa was devastated by the 2011 crisis, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, but a huge relief effort, though late, followed by good rains in the autumn saw levels of hunger begin to drop.
That tentative progress is now under threat from a poor rainy season, combined with funding shortages leading to possible delays to lifesaving work. The aid agency says there is little time to act to protect millions of people from falling into hunger.
Matt Croucher, Save the Children’s East Africa humanitarian director, said: “Families in East Africa are facing the possibility of a second summer of extreme hunger. There is a very real chance that poor rains, crop failures and conflict will mean that the recovery that began in the autumn was a false dawn, and the region will experience a double-dip hunger crisis. Decisive action could prevent a repeat of last year’s crisis; we must prepare for the worst, not just hope for the best.”
In Kenya, forecasts of poor rains in the arid north-east are prompting fears of rapid deterioration in food security. In Ethiopia, rains are already late in some areas, leading to water shortages and the failure of key root crops. And in Somalia, millions of people left vulnerable by last year’s crisis face starvation unless immediate funding is provided for emergency relief programmes.
The combined outlook for East Africa is now so serious that food security experts put the odds of repeat of rain failure on the scale of 2011 at one in three. Despite similar predictions of widespread hunger last year, significant funding was not made available until a full-blown crisis was underway. Research carried out by Save the Children and Oxfam found the delay cost thousands of lives and millions of dollars in aid money.
“The world must not ignore early warnings again,” Croucher said. “G8 countries will have hunger on their agenda when they meet next month- they must lead the way in not let another crisis develop after being warned so clearly.”
Save the Children is working in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and has reached over three million people with life-saving assistance since last year's hunger crisis. The agency is already responding to poor rainfall predictions. In Somalia, Save the Children is providing emergency food, shelter and sanitation for more than 400,000 people. In Ethiopia, the charity is responding with nutrition, water/sanitation, livestock support and child protection programmes. In Kenya, we are feeding the most vulnerable children and supporting the livelihoods of people in affected areas.