Global response to East Africa’s hunger crisis is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’, says Christian Aid

Report
from Christian Aid
Published on 11 Aug 2017

Christian Aid’s emergency fundraising drive for East Africa’s hunger crisis has raised more than £2.1m in six months says the charity, as it urges the global community to do more to stop the scandal of mass starvation.

To date, Christian Aid and its local partners have helped nearly 75,000 people across Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan, since launching an emergency appeal in February.

Christian Aid is now issuing a renewed plea for urgent, comprehensive global action to help some of the 20 million people affected by food shortages, fuelled by either severe drought or conflict.

Speaking from Nairobi, Christian Aid’s regional humanitarian adviser Mbaraka Fazal said: “In terms of scale and intensity, this is the worst disaster that I have seen in my 20 years as a humanitarian worker, and the worst in our generation. It is certainly the most severe crisis that Christian Aid and our partners here in East Africa have dealt with.

"We are working relentlessly to support those in need of life-saving assistance. So far we have managed to deliver aid to 74,879 people: from helping them access food and clean water, to giving them the means to catch fish, feed their cattle, earn an income and keep their children in school.

“This is all thanks to the generosity of those who have donated. Over the coming weeks we are intensifying our response, using these funds and money from the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) appeal.

“However, over 16 million people are affected by this catastrophe: together with other national and international aid agencies, we are only touching the tip of the iceberg. So many lives hang in the balance, as hunger, thirst and disease tighten their grip.

“In 2017, it is a scandal that anyone should starve to death. Yet, that is the reality facing millions of people – from babies to the most elderly. As an international community, we cannot just sit by and watch from the side-lines. We can, and we must, do more. We need extra funding to help women, children and men not only survive, but also rebuild their lives.”

In Kenya and Ethiopia, persistent drought and poor rains have driven people to their limit: harvests have failed, water sources have dried up, and cattle – the life-source for many – have died in their thousands. In South Sudan, violent conflict has forced millions to abandon their homes and land, with more than half of the population severely short of food.

Mbaraka Fazal said: “With the dry season now beginning, conditions are about to deteriorate even further. People are in a very vulnerable situation: they have long exhausted all their means of coping. Most of them have lost almost all their livelihoods, especially the families who rely on livestock, while those who farm have been unable to grow any crops.

“In order to survive, people are migrating long distances to search for food, safe water, work and grazing lands for their animals. This is leading to conflict between different people groups, as tensions rise over what little resources remain.

“When groups migrate, it is the children, women, the elderly and those with disabilities who are left behind: with hardly anything to eat, they scrape by on wild fruits and waterlilies. Malnutrition levels are alarmingly high, especially for under-five-year-olds.

"We can’t sit by and watch a generation of children die before they have had a chance to live. We need to act now.”