East Africa Hunger Crisis: Fast Facts

Devastating drought, conflict, and skyrocketing global food prices are putting millions of people at risk of famine across communities in East Africa. Learn more about the hunger crisis in East Africa and how you can provide life-saving support.


1. More than 20 million people in East Africa are at risk of starvation.

The worst drought in four decades, ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising food prices, and protracted and new violent conflicts are contributing to food scarcity and insecurity across the Horn of Africa. Extreme weather caused by the climate crisis has depleted water sources and killed crops and livestock on a devastating scale, meanwhile flooding has wiped away precious crops in other parts of the region.

Although local, regional, and international efforts averted famine in 2022, more than 23 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are still facing severe hunger. South Sudan may face its highest number of people at crisis levels of hunger, and the crisis in Sudan has increased food insecurity dramatically.
Source: World Food Programme + FEWS NET

2. Climate change is causing extreme suffering.

Across the Horn of Africa, communities struggled to survive with almost no rain for the past 2.5 years, the longest in 70 years of reliable rainfall records. The nations hit hardest by the drought — Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — must now find ways to fight the risk of famine, replenish lost crops and livestock, and recover. Many communities were already forced to leave their homes in search of water, food, pasture, and treatment for sick children.

Although rain has helped combat some of the consequences of the ongoing droughts, flooding has caused increased suffering for many families across the Horn of Africa in 2023. Following consecutive droughts, arid lands were unable to absorb heavy rains between February and May , which led to riverine flooding, the destruction of crops just before harvest, and spikes in disease outbreaks. These disasters displaced more than 400,000 people across Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as thousands in South Sudan. The return of El Niño in 2023 poses a further risk of flooding in East Africa.
Source: FAO

3. Millions of children are facing severe acute malnutrition.

Across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, more than 7 million children under age 5 remain malnourished and in need of urgent nutrition support, and over 1.9 million children are at risk of dying from severe malnutrition. UNICEF and partners estimate that in Somalia alone, at least 21,000 children have already died as a result of the drought. Across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, it’s expected that 10.3 million children under 5 will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2023. In South Sudan, 1.5 million children require urgent life-saving treatment.

Hunger not only puts children at risk of sickness, but can lead to higher rates of child marriage as families are unable to afford to feed their daughters, and increased drop out rates in school when children are forced to work or search for food instead of continuing their studies.
Source: Voice of America + World Food Programme + Forbes + UNICEF + Red Cross + Nutrition Cluster

Provide life-saving aid with a donation to GlobalGiving’s East Africa Hunger Relief Fund.


4. Conflict is contributing to the hunger crisis.

Around the world, conflict is the largest driver of food crises. In Ethiopia’s Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions, prolonged conflict has displaced millions of people and destroyed crops. Almost 40% of people in the Tigray region were estimated to be suffering an extreme lack of food after nearly two years of fighting. Accusations of aid diversion also resulted in the temporary suspension of the United Nations World Food Programme in Ethiopia in 2023.

Somalia is experiencing ongoing fighting between the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab and government and international forces. Security challenges, new displacement, and poor road networks have made it difficult for food aid to reach hundreds of thousands of people in need. In addition, conflict in Puntland and Somaliland have escalated, displacing over 200,000 people, including into Ethiopia. Violence has also extended across borders with attacks by armed groups from Somalia attempted in southern Ethiopia.

In South Sudan, combatants fought for decades in a war leading to independence in 2011, and sporadic violence since then has caused millions of people to flee. Along with the climate crisis, this has led to mass displacement and the destruction of crops and arable land. More than 70% of South Sudanese are dependent on food aid, with figures estimated to be higher in 2023 than at the peak of the civil war.

Fighting in Sudan in 2023 has put the region closer to the precipice, with thousands of people, including refugees, fleeing from Sudan into South Sudan and Ethiopia for safety. Sudan is also a key player in regional food security, further threatening the situation in South Sudan. Sudan itself was already facing high levels of food insecurity before April 2023.
Source: Al Jazeera + Reuters + The New Humanitarian + The BBC + Food Security Information Network + World Food Programme + Al Jazeera + ABC News

5. The war in Ukraine is driving up food prices.

Before the war, Ukraine was a significant source of the world’s grains, including wheat. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is compounding the challenges to food access in East Africa by limiting wheat imports that East African countries rely on. In 2021, for example, Eritrea imported more than 40% of its wheat from Ukraine.

The war has also sent the global prices of fuel, food, and fertilizer soaring. The Black Sea Grain initiative (between the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey) which facilitates exports of grain and fertilizer is at risk. In addition, the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine is predicted to cause further increases in food prices.
Source: The New York Times + World Food Programme + Reuters

6. Relief efforts to ease the hunger crisis in East Africa are woefully underfunded.

With donor attention largely focused on supporting people affected by Russia’s war on Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, many global aid efforts to provide relief for the hunger crisis in East Africa are falling short.

The United Nations estimated in May 2023 that $7 billion are still required to provide lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance in the region. Organizations providing assistance are having to make difficult decisions in prioritization, putting recovery further out of reach for millions.

Funding can make a difference as it did in 2017 when many of these countries faced famine and averted it thanks to concerted efforts.
Source: The New York Times + World Food Programme + USAID + OCHA

Provide life-saving aid with a donation to GlobalGiving’s East Africa Hunger Relief Fund.


7. When famine is declared, it will be too late.

Famine is declared when the rates of death and starvation in a geographic area have reached a certain threshold, among other criteria. This means that people living in famine-declared areas have a limited chance of survival. Areas across East Africa are now in an emergency phase and on the brink of famine. But because famine is preventable, it is essential to act before it’s too late.
Source: Action Against Hunger + The New Humanitarian

8. GlobalGiving partners are already on the ground providing food, water, medical treatment, and other emergency services.

GlobalGiving’s Disaster Response Team is working with responding partners to support hunger relief efforts in East Africa. Local partners in particular have the expertise and experience to respond to their communities’ needs. The GlobalGiving East Africa Hunger Relief Fund will also support community-led, long-term recovery efforts as needed.
Source: GlobalGiving East Africa Hunger Relief Fund

9. Cash is the best way to help people at risk of starvation during the East Africa hunger crisis.

Why? Individual needs will vary greatly throughout the life cycle of a crisis. Cash donations empower community leaders to be nimble in responding to their communities’ changing and evolving needs. In addition, drought has severely impacted the livelihoods and income of people in the region—the lack of water devastated livestock and farming. With the costs of water, fuel, and food skyrocketing, cash assistance can save lives. Some people affected by this crisis require nutrition or financial support, others will require medical care or other assistance years down the road. You can learn more about the importance of cash donations in this infographic.
Source: GlobalGiving + USAID Center for International Disaster Information + Adeso

Provide life-saving aid for people at risk of starvation through GlobalGiving’s East Africa Hunger Relief Fund.


Featured Photo: East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response by Concern Worldwide US

Note: This article was originally published at 4:40 p.m. on June 15, 2022 and last updated at 3:23 p.m. on June 21, 2023.

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