Looming disaster threatens Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, aid agencies warn
Irish aid agencies have joined forces to plead for help to stave off famine in Africa’s drought-stricken east.
Around 23 million people are already struggling to access food, millions of children are suffering severe malnutrition and it is estimated that 1,800 people are dying from hunger every day.
The looming disaster is affecting Somalia and large areas of Ethiopia and Kenya which are in the grip of a prolonged drought that has wiped out livestock, destroyed crops and forced mass migrations.
Concern Worldwide, Goal, Oxfam Ireland and Trócaire are among the development and humanitarian organisations around the world that have been warning about the growing crisis for months with little response.
The region relies on bi-annual rains but droughts have been increasing over the past 20 years and some parts have had no rain since 2019.
Jane-Ann McKenna, of umbrella group Dóchas which represents development workers, said the fact there was a threat of famine in the 21st century was above all a political failure.
“The failure to address the deadly combination of climate change, conflict and the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic has left the region in extreme crisis,” she said.
“This is now exacerbated by the disruption of the global economy and food systems as a result of conflict in Ukraine.”
The United Nations estimates that funding of €4.2bn is needed to buy food, water and other supports to get people through the crisis.
So far governments have donated just a fraction of the money required.
At a lunchtime event in Dublin, the four agencies urged the Irish Government to lead by example in responding to the appeal.
Ms McKenna said there was a risk of a repeat of the disaster 10 years ago when more than 250,000 people died in the region despite Irish and international NGOs sounding the alarm in good time.
“This time around, governments and the international community have failed yet again to heed the calls for action,” she said.
“Clear, repeated, and credible early warnings have been ignored for more than two years and the number of people facing crisis levels of hunger in the region has more than doubled to 23 million people since last year.
“We need political action and leadership. We can end this hunger crisis if we act now, and if we act collectively.”