As many as 28 million people across East Africa at risk of extreme hunger if rains fail again

Monday, March 28, 2022

As many as 28 million people across East Africa face severe hunger if the March rains fail. With the
unfolding crisis in Ukraine taking their attention, there is a real danger that the international
community will not respond adequately to the escalating hunger crisis in East Africa until it is too late,
Oxfam warned today.

A massive “no regrets” mobilization of international humanitarian aid is needed now to avert
destitution and to help the 21 million people already facing severe levels of hunger in the midst of
conflict, flooding, and a massive two-year drought – unprecedented in 40 years – in countries across
East Africa.

“East Africa faces a profoundly alarming hunger crisis. Areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South
Sudan and beyond are experiencing an unfolding full-scale catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive
this month, full recovery will be near impossible unless urgent action is taken today,” said Gabriela
Bucher, Oxfam Executive Director.

“The repercussions of the Ukrainian conflict on the global food system will reverberate around the
globe, but it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who will be among those hit hardest and
fastest. Rising food prices are a hammer blow to millions of people who are already suffering multiple
crises, and make the huge shortfall in aid potentially lethal.” said Bucher.
Covid-related hikes in global food and commodity prices were already undermining the options
available to heavily indebted African governments to resolve the mass hunger facing their people.

However, the crisis in Ukraine will have catastrophic new consequences as it already pushes up food
and commodity prices beyond what East African governments can afford.
Countries in East Africa import up to 90% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. As disruptions
begin to affect the global trade in grains, oil, transport and fertilizer, food prices are beginning to
skyrocket. They hit an all-time high last week. In Somalia, the prices for staple grains were more than
double those of the previous year.

In 2010-11, similar spikes in food prices pushed 44 million more people worldwide into extreme
poverty, and indications are that the food-price inflation happening now will be even worse.
Ahmed Mohamud Omar (70), a pastoralist from Wajir County in Kenya, told Oxfam: “Due to the
droughts our donkeys have perished and the ones remaining are too weak to pull carts. My only
tuktuk is now parked idle because I can’t afford its fuel. I no longer have my camels or goats, I think
about what will my family eat, where will their next meal come from, whether I will get the daily jerrican
of water.”

Nyadang Martha, from Akobo in South Sudan said: “All the 40 years of my life, I have never seen
anything like what is happening here in Akobo. For the past four years, it is either flood, drought,
famine, violence, or COVID-19. This is just too much. I am tired of living. If it continues like this, I
doubt if my girls will become full adults.”

“The world cannot again talk itself into inertia as people are pushed into extreme food insecurity. To
not act now would be immoral and a dereliction of the humanitarian imperative,” said Bucher.
 Over 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been displaced in search of
water and pasture, just in the first quarter of 2022. Millions of others had to flee their

farmlands and homes by conflicts especially around Ethiopia – where 9.4m people now need
urgent humanitarian aid.

 The region has suffered from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years and flash flooding that
have affected nearly a million people in South Sudan.

 Kenya has suffered a 70 percent drop in crop production and has declared a national disaster
with 3.1m people in acute hunger, now in need of aid. Nearly half of all households in Kenya
are having to borrow food or buy it on credit.

 Ethiopia is facing its highest level of food insecurity since 2016, in Somali region alone 3.5m
people experience critical water and food shortage. Almost a million livestock animals have
died, leaving pastoralists who entirely depend on herding for survival with nothing. Women tell
us heart-breaking stories about having to skip meals so that they can feed their children.

 More than 671,000 people have recently migrated away from their homes in Somalia because
nearly 90% of the country is in severe drought. This will likely leave almost half of Somali
children under five acutely malnourished.

 In South Sudan, an estimated 8.3 million people will face severe food insecurity this lean
season (May-July) as climatic and economic shocks intensify.
Despite alarming need, the humanitarian response is woefully underfunded. Only 3% of the total $6bn
UN 2022 humanitarian appeal for Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, has been funded to date.
Kenya has only secured 11% of its UN flash appeal to date.

Idris Akhdar from WASDA a 21-year Kenyan partner with Oxfam, from Wajir County, North Eastern
Kenya said: “Our team have met desperate people. People who are hungry, who are thirsty, and who
are about to lose hope. In the last few days, I have seen across the region - Somali region in Ethiopia,
Somalia, and Kenya - the same hunger and destitution all over. We appeal to the international
community to help.”

Jilo Roba, Coordinator at the Department for Children’s Services in Kenya, one of Oxfam partners,
said: “There’s a family I visited two days ago, they married off their young daughter. The father was
sick so he borrowed money to go to hospital and, when he couldn’t repay it, they had to let their
daughter go.”

Diyaara Ibrahim Gulie, from Wajir County in Kenya who has received food and cash assistance via
Oxfam says: “We now have to skip meals and resort to one meal a day. And at times we have to
prioritize the children`s eating and starve the grown-ups in order to sustain what little food we have.”
Oxfam together with local partners, is redoubling its support for those impacted by the East African
hunger crisis, aiming to reach over 1.5 million people most in need with lifesaving water, cash, shelter
and sanitation facilities.

Oxfam will help people to build rebuild their lives from these climatic shocks.
“East Africa cannot wait. The hunger crisis, fuelled by changes in our climate and COVID-19, is
worsening by the day. Oxfam is calling on all donors to urgently fill the UN humanitarian appeal
funding gap, and to get funds as quickly as possible to local humanitarian organisations. The
governments and warring parties in conflict zones need to ensure humanitarian agencies like Oxfam
can safely reach the most vulnerable people,” said Bucher.

“We call upon the governments especially from grain exporting countries to do all they can to find
suitable alternatives to the imminent disruption in the supply chain from Ukraine towards low-income,
food-import dependent countries. And – as we witness the tremors triggered by the failure in
international efforts to tackle the climate crisis – we underscore the need to ramp up action on climate
adaptation and mitigation,” said Bucher.

Notes to editors: 

Oxfam’s Executive Director Gabriela Bucher will be holding a global press conference on 22
March 2022 from 3pm-5pm EAT (12 noon-2pm GMT) at Oxfam headquarters, Atrium
building, Chaka Road, Nairobi, Kenya. Live zoom link available to all journalists HERE
Gabriela will be available for interviews.

 Oxfam has new exclusive stories people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, including b-rolls,
interviews in VNR and photos available HERE.
 Oxfam partners In Kenya: ASAL Humanitarian Network; in Northern Ethiopia: ORDA in
Amhara, APDA in Afar Regions; in Somalia: Kaalo, WASDA, SADO, SSWC, ADESO; and in
South Sudan: SALT, DARD, YWCA.
 Figures on extreme coping mechanisms are from WFP food security analysis monitoring
survey. Data is collected on a rolling basis. For more details on the methodology kindly check
the Hunger Map.
 “Climate change and La Niña are working together to produce prolonged and persistent
dryness.” Source: The World Food Programme and the Multi Agency in East Africa
 Displacement figures in Somalia from the UN Humanitarian Bulletin January 2022
 Data on the UN Humanitarian appeal from Source: UNOCHA , accessed 14 March 2022. Data
on Kenya’s appeal based on UN flash Appeal initially raised for October 2021-March 2022.
 Figures on food price increase in 2010- 2011 are from Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, April 2011 and the World Bank Feb 2011
 South Sudan food insecurity projections are from South Sudan Food Security & Livelihood
Cluster Analysis Report, February 2022.
OXFAM RESPONSE IN EAST AFRICA
 In South Sudan: Oxfam has provided support to over 400,000 people and aims to reach and
additional 240,000 people with safe water, sanitation and hygiene services and promotion,
cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and livelihood support like seeds,
tools, fishing kits.
 In Somalia, Oxfam aims to reach 420,000 people this year with lifesaving water, sanitation
and health support, including drilling boreholes in water insecure areas, distributing hygiene
kits, providing materials to help protect communities from water borne diseases, and
distributing cash, seeds tools, and training farmers in small scale greenhouse farming. Oxfam
will also support livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns together with the Ministry of
Livestock, train community protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and
distribute solar lamps to protect women and girls at night. To date we have reached over
260,000 people.
 In Kenya, Oxfam is currently supporting 40,000 people and planning to expand the support to
approximately 240,000 people with cash transfers for food and other essential items and
water, sanitation and hygiene activities such as repairing water points and boreholes to
provide access to clean, safe water and hygiene promotion campaigns.
 In Ethiopia, Oxfam has supported 170,000 people in Northern Ethiopia with lifesaving clean
water, food, and cash assistance, particularly in conflict affected areas in South Tigray,
Central Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Oxfam aims to reach an additional 750,000 women, men
and children in Northern Ethiopia with emergency food packages, livelihoods assistance,
clean water, sanitation and hygiene kits and protection until March 2023. Together with our
partners, we are also scaling up response in the Somali Region to respond to the effects of
the drought.
Contact Information

Contact information: 

Levi Gikandi, Oxfam Regional Media Advisor in the Horn, East and Central Africa Region |
lgikandi@oxfam.org.uk | Mobile +254 740 699 617

Joseph Odongo, Media and Communications Lead, Oxfam in Kenya- jodongo@oxfam.org.uk | Mobile +254 725 632 410