East Africa: Oxfam Says as Many as 28 Million to Face Severe Hunger

Nairobi — Oxfam has warned that as many as 28 million people across East Africa are likely to 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.

Speaking Tuesday during a press briefing, Oxfam Executive Director, Gabriela Bucher said this is the worst drought experienced in the last 40 years in East Africa.

She said, 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 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 Bucher.

The repercussions of the Ukrainian conflict on the global food system, Bucher said, will reverberate around the globe, but it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who will be among those hit hardest and fastest.

Bucher noted that 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.

Covid-related hikes in global food and commodity prices, she said, were already undermining the options available to heavily indebted African governments to resolve the mass hunger facing their people.

However, Bucher noted that 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.

The Executive Director said countries in East Africa import up to 90% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia and that as disruptions begin to affect the global trade in grains, oil, transport and fertilizer, food prices are beginning to skyrocket.

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.

“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.

“East Africa cannot wait. The hunger crisis, fueled 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.

Bucher called 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.

In her remarks, Founder and Executive Director Samburu Women Trust Jane Meriwas, said the hunger crisis is becoming even worse thus affecting women, children and the elderly even more.

“If the situation continues like this, children are going to stop going to school with young girls getting married and livestock’s dying,” said Meriwas.

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. – Kna

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