A deadly mix of conflict, desert locust infestation, COVID-19 and the climate change crisis have pushed more than 26 million people across six countries in East Africa into a hunger crisis. According to UN reports, approximately 509,000 people in East Africa are under catastrophic conditions, a phase marked by critical acute malnutrition, hunger, destitution and death – this phase is understood in the humanitarian sector as the highest and most urgent Integrated Food Insecurity Phase Classification (IPC) of level 5. Additionally, almost 7.1 million people are exposed to emergency phase (IPC4).
The region has endured substantial and widespread breeding of desert locusts since late 2019, resulting in loss of pasture and crops. Additionally, between June to date rising conflict in Ethiopia and portracted instability in Sudan and Somalia has exacerbated the food insecurity situation in the region. The Climate Prediction and Application Centre and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation had both made predictions of dry conditions and a worsening food insecurity situation in 2021. Coupled with the economic impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, which continue to destroy livelihoods and push millions into desperation. FEWS NET analysis indicated dipped harvests which affected local supplies and food prices.
This challenging period could erode human and economic development gains that have been made towards the global Sustainable Development Goals across the region. The rising food insecurity also increases the risks faced by women and girls, including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.