East Africa Food Crisis

Aug 15, 2012


Chronic poverty and malnutrition, conflict, weak health systems, high food prices, poor vaccination coverage, a lack of access to clean water and a changing climate all culminated in a deadly food crisis in 2011. Despite early warnings, livestock perished and thousands of families were pushed closer and closer to the brink of disaster.

It was to become the worst drought in East Africa in 60 years, affecting over 13 million people and killing tens of thousands. In response, Save the Children launched the largest emergency response in our 90-year history. We were already on the ground when the first warning signs were seen. We rapidly scaled up our life-saving programs, delivering health, nutrition, water, crucial life-saving support, protection and education to children and their families.

Thanks to our donors

We are very grateful to all our donors and supporters for their contribution to our work. Thanks to you we have reached over 3.4 million people to date with life-saving and life-sustaining aid.

You’re helping us feed thousands of families, providing many more with clean water and health care across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. You are also giving children a future by helping us to provide them with a quality education – many for the first time in their lives. Families are being supported to find sustainable solutions to drought in their communities. But they are not out of danger yet, and many remain on the brink of crisis.


May 16, 2012

New Update from the Horn of Africa

The Hunger Crisis in the Horn of Africa continues. The general food security situation has stabilized and is improving in most areas of Ethiopia due to the arrival in the markets of crops from the meher (October-February) harvest, the impact of the overall good deyr/hagaya (October-December) rains on water availability and livestock conditions, and the continuing distribution of relief food.

However, worsening water shortages continue to be reported in parts of Ethiopia, with an estimated 690,000 people in need of emergency water assistance. Over the past week, water trucking requirements increased by 37 trucks.

Risk of a poor April-June rainy season remains in Somalia, and people in southern regions continue to be vulnerable to both price and rainfall shocks following the devastating effects of the recent food crisis. As a result, large numbers of people are likely to remain in crisis until the August 2012 harvest, with numbers likely to increase starting in May in Juba, Shabelle and Bay regions, when the benefit of the current harvest will be reduced.

 Save the Children has been supporting treatment for children with severe acute malnutrition at the OTP (Outpatient Therapeutic Program), school feeding programs, training of cook volunteers, rehabilitation of health posts, screening of children for malnutrition and training on malnutrition by the nutrition team.


In the refugee camps, activities in child protection include reunification of children with their relatives, raising of awareness through tea-talk meetings and house to house visits were done to create awareness to parents about the rights of children in general and the reporting mechanism on child abuses within the camp. Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) teams also traveled to refugee camps to discuss how to collaborate with other FTR teams and help return more lost children to their relatives.

Educational activities included general supervision to ensure good attendance, water supply, hygiene and sanitation and child protection was done in the Dolo Ado camps, rehabilitation of water, shade and latrines, training of cooks on child protection and proper food handling management. 

To help families feed their children, we distributed fresh food vouchers as well as supported livestock vaccination and deworming.

Apr 25, 2012

Our Results in East Africa So Far, April 2012


In Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, Save the Children’s child protection program reached more than 63,000 children in refugee camps and host communities. In the Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest refugee camp with about 463,000 people, we’ve helped counsel children who have lived through traumatic experiences. Many children witnessed disturbing events. In Dadaab, we also operate child friendly spaces, places where kids can get away from the stresses of living in a refugee camp and play and learn in a safe environment.

We supplied life-saving water by trucking it to communities in need. We’ve also set up water systems and distributed purification tablets. Overall, we’ve helped supply 100,000 people and their livestock with water.

In Ethiopia, our livelihoods program reached more than 1.1 million people with food and cash vouchers as well as the wide distribution of agricultural items such as seeds, fuel and animal fodder.

Save the Children has reached about 344,000 people throughout Somalia, the majority of them children. Malnourished children—and those who are severely malnourished—are brought to centers where they receive the right kinds of food. This may be Plumpy’nut, a high-nutrient peanut paste, or nutritious porridge.


Feb 8, 2012

A Dangerous Delay

More than 13 million people are still affected by the crisis in the Horn of Africa. There were clear early warning signs many months in advance, yet there was insufficient response until it was far too late. 

Governments, donors, the UN and NGOs need to change their approach to chronic drought situations by managing the risks, not the crisis. 

This means acting on information from early warning systems and not waiting for certainty before responding, as well as tackling the root causes of vulnerability and actively seeking to reduce risk in all activities. To achieve this, we must overcome the humanitarian–development divide.

The emergency in the Horn of Africa in 2011 was no sudden-onset crisis. Thanks to sophisticated early warning systems (EWS), there were clear indications of the impending drought and its consequences.

Forecasts of the impending crisis started in August 2010, as changing weather conditions linked to the La Niña phenomenon were confirmed. These predictions became more strident in early November 2010, when the October to December short rains were forecast to be poor. This prediction was accurate, prompting the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group for East Africa (FSNWG) to set up a La Niña task force.

In December 2010, it stated that ‘pre-emptive action is needed to protect livelihoods and avoid later costly lifesaving emergency interventions’ and called on the humanitarian community (donors, UN, NGOs) ‘to be prepared now at country level.’

Early action is more costeffective. In the 2004–2005 Niger emergency, WFP's initial food deliveries in February 2005 cost $7 per beneficiary, but the response to the appeal was weak; by August the Niger situation had reached crisis,
money began to flow, but the cost per beneficiary had risen to $23.

Multi-agency scenario planning took place in February 2011. A Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) food security alert dated 15 March made it clear that the current situation was already alarming and would deteriorate further if the March to May rains were as poor as expected. It stated that even average rains would lead to a critical food security situation until May or June, and predicted ‘localized famine conditions [in southern Somalia], including significantly increased child mortality… if the worst case scenario assumptions are realized’.

The FSNWG also warned that ‘failure of the March to May rains is likely to result in a major crisis’. At this stage,
humanitarian actors were advised to begin large-scale contingency/respon planning immediately, and to implement expanded multi-sectoral programmming. Yet this call was not adequately heeded.

The national response 
In Ethiopia and Kenya, major investment in national early warning systems over the past decade has improved the quality of information available. The governments in both countries play leading roles in identifying needs and coordinating the overall response. Arguably, the response was more efficient than the response to previous droughts, reflecting learning and investments made since the last drought, but challenges remain.

In Ethiopia, early action did take place across a number of sectors. For example, the government’s Agricultural Task Force, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), developed a road map for interventions in early 2011. However, government figures on the number of people needing assistance published in February 2011 were among the lowest in recent years (2.8 million). These figures were revised upwards in April, and again in July, to 4.5 million people. Donors have expressed concern that this underestimated the actual numbers of people in need, particularly in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) region, and that the
lack of timely, accurate information on the scale of need makes it more difficult to access resources from headquarters.
Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) used its 20 per cent contingency budget, and the Risk Financing Mechanism was also triggered in September 2011 to extend the food provision period for PSNP beneficiaries.

The NGO consortium Joint Emergency Operation Plan (JEOP) was scaled up and extended through 2011. This allowed for an increased number of beneficiaries (more than 300,000 ‘additional transitory’ beneficiaries) as well as
extended help to 6.5m existing PSNP beneficiaries.


Oct 10, 2011

Haway is Healthy: Ethiopia Survivor Story

Little Haway from drought-parched Ethiopia had something special to celebrate on her first birthday – being alive. Her village, in what had been the dairy capitol of Ethiopia, has been devastated by drought. For two years, the rains haven’t come. Massive herds of goats and cows have been decimated. Almost nothing grows and fertile pastures are turning into deserts. Village children had nothing to eat but bark from the dying shrubs.

The drought took a significant toll on Haway’s village, her mother fell ill and couldn’t nurse her and there was no longer any milk to drink since the livestock had perished.

Haway became dangerously malnourished and weighed only 12 pounds when she was brought to a Save the Children emergency nutrition program. She was skin and bones, extreme hunger and severe acute malnutrition consumed her tiny body.

Like almost all children in drought-affected regions of Ethiopia, Haway also suffered from infections due to a lack of clean drinking water in her village. Infections hasten dangerous dehydration and muscle-wasting, forcing malnourished children into a rapid downward spiral.

“You have to treat babies like Haway very carefully as feeding them the wrong nutrients can be dangerous,” says Sisay Demeke, a Save the Children emergency nutrition coordinator. “First, we treated her illness and restored her body’s balance of water, sodium and essential minerals."

Once Haway became stable enough to digest protein and fat, she began receiving a weight-gaining mixture of milk, vitamins, minerals, grain, sugar and oil. And then she began to thrive. She went from listless to vibrant in just a few days. Her sunken face became full, eventually plumping up to the chubby-cheeked baby you see today.

Haway became well enough to go home and begin the out-patient treatment program – consisting of high-nutrient, high-calorie foods and water purification supplies.

The village matriarch, also named Haway, was astounded by the baby girl’s recovery. She has since become a health volunteer for Save the Children and has been trained to keep an eagle eye on health problems in her small tribal village.

“I am happy to give back by being a health volunteer. If there were no Save the Children, many of the babies in my village would have died,” she says.

“They [Save the Children] give a very good service. The food they provide to kids is very good and the way they provide it is kind.”

With her entire village now involved with Save the Children’s health and nutrition programs, Haway and the other young children have the support and hope they need to make it until rains will come back.


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Project Leader

Penelope Crump

Westport, CT United States

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