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East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response

by Concern Worldwide US
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East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern's Response
Locusts in Marsabit, Kenya. Photo: Concern (2020).
Locusts in Marsabit, Kenya. Photo: Concern (2020).

Concern Worldwide has launched an emergency appeal for funds to prevent a major humanitarian crisis in East Africa as massive swarms of desert locusts threaten food supplies of 13 million people.

“Swarms of locusts are sweeping through the region eating everything in sight – leaves, crops and grass,” Concern’s Director of International Programs Anne O’Mahony said. “A swarm can strip a field in minutes.”

“For pastoralist farmers it means they have no fodder for their livestock. Farmers who were preparing to harvest crops have watched as locusts devoured both their plants and the seeds they need for next year’s crop. It is a disaster.”

“It is just so unfair for these vulnerable communities who have come through years of drought and were then hit by flooding to see them lose everything in this way.”

Massive swarms of locusts are devouring entire fields of crops in as little as 30 seconds and fueling fears of a major food crisis in some of the world’s poorest countries. Communities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are facing alarming food shortages with the crops they grow to survive being eaten in seconds by flying desert locusts.

“It only takes 30 seconds for a swarm to eat an entire field,” said Concern Kenya Country Director Amina Abdulla. “Millions of locusts are eating all vegetation in their path including food crops that are absolutely crucial for survival here.”

Amina said the devastating swarms – which have made headlines around the world as affected countries declare national emergencies – recently split into two directions in Kenya, heading west and south.

“This is extremely worrying and has major implications for Kenya in terms of food security,” she said.

Concern staff in Kenya are assessing the damage and planning to support families through cash aid and seed distribution to try and avert a food crisis.

Similar locust swarms in Ethiopia are the worst the country has seen in 25 years, with an estimated 235,000 hectares of crop, pasture and forest invaded by the infestation so far.

Meanwhile in Somalia, rural communities already struggling to cope following unusually heavy rains and flash floods in the second half of 2019 are especially vulnerable now to the effect of the massive locust swarms. In several locations, precious crops have been destroyed and Concern’s team in Somalia are conducting an assessment of the damage and the needs of the people affected.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that the locust swarms will grow up to 500 times their current size by June if sufficient measures to tackle them are not taken soon. We need your continued support now to prevent this emerging disaster from becoming a catastrophe in the coming months. Thank you.

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Ibraahin in Somalia. Photo: Kieran McConville.
Ibraahin in Somalia. Photo: Kieran McConville.

Dear Generous Supporter,

Ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa has left 12 million people severely insecure and over 785,000 children severely malnourished across Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) expects these numbers to continue rising due to consecutive “poor” seasons that have destroyed livelihoods. 5.9 million people are internally displaced, 1.8 million of whom have been displaced due to drought. The crisis has also created 2.7 million refugees.

How did it get so bad?

While conflict does play a part in many of the countries involved in this crisis (especially, in recent years, Somalia), the greater issue that has exacerbated the Horn of Africa is weather. Year over year, rains continue to fall short of expectations with 2019 being one of the driest rainy seasons on record in over 35 years. In Ethiopia, the 2019 drought comes on top of prolonged drought in 2016 and 2017 — one that many communities are still struggling to recover from. With little water for crops and herds, livelihoods and food security are the next dominoes to fall.

How Concern is helping

We’ve spent 46 years in Ethiopia and are familiar with its weather-related shocks — the effects of which impact over 80% of the rural population. Our country programs have impacted 573,000 people directly and over 1.8 million people indirectly in six regions of the country and in the capital city of Addis Ababa. In 2017, we launched a 5-year integrated program targeting over 52,000 people to help more than 5,00 of the poorest households to “graduate” from poverty. We also scaled up our humanitarian response to being operational in 34 of the most affected districts across 6 different regions in 2018, helping with emergency nutrition services while also ensuring access to potable water, sanitation, and non-food items such as shelter and cooking equipment.

Our emergency team in Somalia (where we’ve worked for 33 years) provides a multi-sector response to drought, flood and displacement-affected households across the country. A key pillar of our response is unconditional cash transfers delivered through mobile phones, which enable families to quickly receive money to buy what they most need from local markets to meet basic needs such as food and healthcare. Much of our programming is also focused on finding durable solutions for communities that have been affected by displacement, often multiple times.

The human cost

In Somaliland, drought drove 78-year old Ibraahin and his flock of 200 goats and sheep to search for food and water on foot. After nearly 400 miles, Ibraahin lost more than half of his livestock and found nothing but dust. The father of 7 told Concern that the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, which has driven hundreds of thousands of farming and herding families from their homes in search of food and water, is the worst he has ever seen. Increased numbers of displaced populations also create a ripple effect of other issues, ranging from overcrowding to gender-based violence.

With your continued support, Concern can make a lasting improvement in the lives of people like Ibraahin. Thank you.

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Ng'ikario. By: Gavin Douglas (Concern 2019).
Ng'ikario. By: Gavin Douglas (Concern 2019).

Dear Supporter,

As of August 2019, the Horn of Africa is in the grip of drought. Large parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia have experienced insufficient rainfall for two consecutive rainy seasons, with devastating consequences for people living in those areas due to lost crops and livestock deaths. Food prices have increased and the number of people across the region who do not have enough food to eat has reached 12 million.

If this news induces a perverse sense of déjà vu, that is because it is the third major drought in the past three years. While droughts can occur in almost all types of climate and are not a new experience for people living in this part of the world, what is new is the frequency with which they are happening. It used to be that they would occur maybe every 15 or 20 years. However, from the late 90s onwards, this cycle was reduced to every five years and over the last decade, it has reduced to every second year. Very simply put, this does not give anywhere near enough time for families to recover and is placing them in increasingly desperate situations.

“The recovery period has become shorter or almost non-existent. If people lost their livestock or their assets and had years to re-build, then recovery might be possible. But when it is every second year, you lose more each cycle. Your ability to bounce back becomes less and less. So it has made people more vulnerable and deepened levels of poverty,” explains Amina Abdulla, Concern Kenya Country Director.

Ng’ikario is a 37-year-old pastoralist in a semi-arid county of Kenya called Turkana. She became the head of her household when her husband became disabled due to injury. Of her six young children, three are severely malnourished. As the land has dried up, so too have her options for keeping food on the table.

She used to have a herd of 100 goats. However, in 2017, extreme drought wiped out half of her herd. With little time to recover in between, this current crisis has left her with only five goats remaining. With no pastures for them to graze on, all five have stopped producing milk. The family had relied on that milk as their primary source of nutrition. Now, she, her six children and her five goats all rely on the same source of food — a wild fruit that grows in the bush. When there is no fruit to pick, Ng’ikario has no option but to turn to the animal hides that line the floor of her home, a small round hut made from wood. “I turn to the old hides and skins. I roast them and that is what we consume,” she explains.

Ng’ikario is not alone. Malnutrition rates in Turkana have reached 30% in some areas with this current crisis. To put that into perspective, rates of 15% or higher are considered a ‘critical emergency’ situation. The strain it is placing on local health services is immense.

So what are we doing about it? With the generous support of supporters like you, Concern Worldwide started programming in Turkana last year and is working to support malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. We are working with the Ministry of Health and with partners such as Save the Children to reach more mothers and children with vital nutrition support and to strengthen the local health systems that are in place to enable them to better cope with the demand for increased services that comes with recurrent drought.

As the climate crisis escalates on a global level, vulnerable communities around the world are confronting the consequences. We are reaching as many people as we possibly can, but we need your help to reach more. Ng’ikario recognizes the need for outside support for her family. “If I didn’t receive this support, I know my children would have been dead by now.”

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Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu
Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu

Dear Supporter,

Somalia has endured decades of conflict and drought, which has led to constant displacement of the population. This mass movement is most heavily felt in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, where resources and services are being pushed to breaking point.

Banadir Hospital, a national referral hospital for maternal and child health, operates in the midst of this displacement and insecurity, caring for approximately 1,000 inpatients at any one time. Under seemingly impossible conditions, the dedicated staff admit up to 100 children daily for pediatric care, deliver 15-16 babies a day, treat HIV, TB and Cholera, and perform lifesaving surgeries.

At Banadir Hospital, Concern Worldwide supports the stabilization center for under-5 children from all over Somalia suffering from the most life threatening form of malnutrition – severe acute malnutrition. This includes supporting payments for doctors and nurses, providing specialized training to build the capacity of staff, as well as supporting the day-to-day running of the center.

All of the hospital’s lifesaving services are reliant on water, and unfortunately Banadir has only one water supply – from a well. When the water supply failed there was no backup plan and by the time the staff at the hospital had noticed the failure, the water tanks had already emptied.

As Doctor Lul Mohammed, the Assistant Hospital Director explains, this put the lives of patients in critical danger.

“This was really a crisis that needed immediate attention. Services would have to stop. We would have to refuse new admissions. Mothers were already referred to another center that morning. However no other hospital could absorb all our patients and most were too unwell to go home.

There was the serious potential of an outbreak of disease. Imagine no water for staff to wash their hands, for sanitation, for cleaning. The situation doesn’t bear thinking about. It really was an imminent crisis.”

Hospital management immediately contacted Concern Health Officer, Dr. Hodan, about the water supply cut and Dr. Hodan was on-site within an hour. He coordinated Concern managers and technicians to identify the problem and fix the water supply as fast as possible. The team of technicians worked late into the evening to install the new pump and the supply of water was restored by nightfall.

“We are very thankful. Concern always responds with urgency. We are confident when contacting Concern, as they always assist. Their support to the stabilization center is deeply appreciated here.”

Concern crew working to restore water
Concern crew working to restore water
Water restored to Banadir hospital
Water restored to Banadir hospital
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A mother and child affected by drought in Ethiopia
A mother and child affected by drought in Ethiopia

Dear Supporter,

Forced migration of people as a result of conflict, natural or environmental disaster, or other stress factors is one of the biggest causes of hunger in the world today. Writing in the 2018 Global Hunger Index, published jointly by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, Dr. Laura Hammond of SOAS University of London outlines the challenges and some possible solutions. Below are some key extracts:

During periods of conflict, hunger may be both a cause and a consequence of forced migration. People affected by conflict experience it not only as a threat to their lives but as an assault on their livelihoods that can undermine their ability to provide for their most basic needs, including food. Conflict can restrict people’s movement and their access to markets, farmland, and jobs. If they cannot produce the food they need to survive or earn an income to purchase that food, their nutritional well-being is compromised.

Some people do indeed manage to flee to safety with the bulk of their savings or assets intact and so do not face the immediate threat of hunger before they are displaced. Others are not as fortunate. By the time they move, they have lost everything. Still others are displaced multiple times, with each move further eroding their resilience, livelihood, and food security.

Common Misperceptions

An analysis of the interplay between hunger and forced migration reveals four common misperceptions.

  1. Hunger and displacement should be recognized and dealt with as political problems.
  2. Humanitarian action alone is an insufficient response to forced migration, and more holistic approaches involving development support are needed.
  3. Food-insecure displaced people should be supported in their regions of origin.
  4. The provision of support should be based on the resilience of the displaced people themselves, which is never entirely absent.

Long-term thinking

Overall, the tools currently used to respond to forced migration are insufficient, because they focus on technical, short-term humanitarian responses rather than addressing the political economy of displacement and the longer-term needs of the displaced.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promise to “leave no one behind,” and SDG2 commits the world to ending hunger by 2030.  Yet for regions hosting millions of displaced persons, the prospects for meeting those goals without considering how to include displaced populations are slim.

Lip service not enough

Policy documents, international agreements, advocacy pieces, and academic writing often pay lip service to these four points, but they are rarely incorporated into action on the ground. Addressing the challenges effectively requires going beyond humanitarian responses, recognizing the political solutions that must be encouraged and strengthened, and engaging in longer-term development efforts in the meantime.

This approach must extend to all sectors: facilitating mobility and income-generation opportunities, supporting education and training linked to employment opportunities in and around areas of displacement, providing health care support to people with chronic illnesses, and ensuring that people have access to markets so they can obtain enough high-quality food for the long term.

From the outset, displacements should be seen not as short-term crises but as potentially long-term moves that will extend over many years. If such a view is taken from the start, a great deal of time, resources, and suffering can be saved.

They received therapeutic food for a full recovery
They received therapeutic food for a full recovery
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Organization Information

Concern Worldwide US

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @concernGCC, @concern
Project Leader:
Alexandra Strzempko
New York, NY United States
$4,665 raised of $10,000 goal
102 donations
$5,335 to go
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