Halima Bare, pictured here with her seven children, walked 50km in search of help after the drought killed 35 of her 40 livestock. Credit: Jo Harrison / Oxfam
Halima Bare, pictured here with her seven children, walked 50km in search of help after the drought killed 35 of her 40 livestock. Credit: Jo Harrison / Oxfam

East Africa food crisis – all you need to know

21 July, 2011 | Conflict & Emergencies

If you've visited Oxfam's website in the last few days, seen the news, or read the papers then you'll no doubt be aware of the humanitarian emergency that is unfolding in East Africa.

Oxfam and many other aid organisations have launched emergency appeals to respond to what's been described as ‘the most severe food security emergency in the world today.'

But how has this crisis come about, what are the causes, and how could it have been prevented? In this article we take a look at the situation in more depth. And we try to answer some of the above questions.

 FEWS NET
How the food crisis is spread through East Africa. Credit: FEWS NET

What's the situation?

The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing a severe drought, with 2011 the driest year on record since 1951. The effect of two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have led to acute food and water shortages across the region.

Displacement, due to the effects of drought and conflict, is increasing rapidly – according to the UN, more than 10,000 refugees a week are arriving in the Dadaab camp in north-eastern Kenya, pushing the camp to over four times its original capacity. In Ethiopia, 2,000 Somali refugees are arriving each day, taking the total number to more than 100,000.

Who's affected by the food crisis?

An estimated total of 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda (see the map from FEWS NET on the right for more).

What are the causes of the crisis?

Though drought has been a fact of life for many decades in the region, the climate is changing. As Halima Bare, a villager from Elado in north east Kenya, puts it: "When I was 18, 19, 20 there was plenty of milk, plenty of meat. Now things have changed. My children were used to milk and were brought up on that but with the changing environment we are changing the food we eat."

So why is it – in an area where people used to be better off – that there is now such widespread crisis? Extreme drought and changing rainfall patterns have compounded a combination of other factors including long term entrenched poverty, rising food prices and conflict. These issues, along with years of marginalisation and under-investment, have led to millions now facing catastrophe.

What else needs to be done?

Though emergency aid can help address people’s immediate needs in the short term, longer term measures to protect livelihoods and increase food production and availability in the region, must include better investment in small-scale food producers – addressing the issues that make communities vulnerable in the first place. Investment in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction will also be needed to help people cope with a changing climate and other shocks.

Governments – both rich donor countries and governments in the region – have an important role to play. Rich countries must scale-up their response, providing adequate emergency funds to plug the current $800 million gap (as of 20 July). And in East Africa, governments must cooperate to ensure food can rapidly reach those in need, temporarily removing import taxes and restrictions on food.

The UN and other humanitarian agencies must also step up registration efforts for people fleeing to refugee camps. As thousand of people flee in search of assistance, the Kenyan government must also follow through on the statement it made last week to open the Ifo II camp that lies close to the border with Somalia.

How is Oxfam responding?

Thanks to the generous support of people from across the world, Oxfam is already reaching families in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya with food, water and sanitation – the basics that people desperately need to stay alive.

Oxfam is also advocating for governments across the world to provide adequate help urgently. We’re also campaigning for longer-term policies to be put in place to increase the resilience of affected communities in the future so that future catastrophes are prevented.

How can you help?

Responding to this crisis and saving lives now is vital – and you help by donating to the nearest Oxfam to you.

But the crisis in East Africa is another example of a food system stretched to breaking point. Droughts in this region may be inevitable, but disasters are not. Governments and the international community must address the issues that make people vulnerable in the first place. The food crisis in East Africa, like in many other parts of the world, is the result of recurring long-term problems. The challenges facing the region will be exacerbated by climate change unless urgent action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions. We also need to see more investment in small-scale food producers, measures to help people cope with a changing climate, and greater support for sustainable livelihoods.

Help us create a movement for change – a movement to fix the broken food system – by joining GROW here.

Comments

Somalia Famine - A Wake Up Call

The UN announcement of famine in Somalia is both a wake-up call to the scale of this disaster, and a wake-up call to the solutions needed to limit death-from-hunger now and in the future.

Climate change and drought

Hi and thank you.

It seems to me that there is a need for facts and figures that document the link between climate change and drought.

I was talking about east africa yesterday and one people said : "it is far from us, what can we do ? It doesn't really belong to us".

I would have appreciated to have facts that could show him that the way we live here has implications on the way people live thousand of miles away...

Thanks. 

Danger of ignoring extant science of human population dynamics

In the name of scientific integrity will someone with appropriate expertise, please, pray tell us, what scientists and other professional researchers with appropriate expertise have known, based upon the best availabile scientific evidence, about the population dynamics of the human species? During my lifetime, what did so-called experts know and when did you know it? Why the worldwide conspiracy of silence concerning human overpopulation issues in the past 66 years?

The family of humanity as well as much of life as we know it are now here inhabitants of a finite planet with a frangible environment that is failing fast. What really matters is being inadvertently ruined on our watch by the human population, but is not being openly discussed. My ‘blood boils’ in the truth that we have possessed knowledge of so much about ourselves as human beings with feet of clay and acknowledged so little about what has been known for so long about our distinctly human creatureliness, based upon extensive empirical research and unchallenged scientific evidence. Elective mutism and silent consent in the face of the reckless degradation, relentless dissipation and willful sell-off of what everyone knows to be sacred looks to me like the worst of all precipitants of the colossal ecological wreckage that appears in the offing.

Inside and outside the community of top rank scientists, as well as among first class professionals in demography and economics who claim appropriate expertise in issues concerning human overpopulation, one issue is not being discussed by anyone. A worldwide conspiracy of silence continues to prevail about the population dynamics of the human species. The last of the last taboos is the open discussion of extant scientific research of human population dynamics. The implications of this astounding denial of what could somehow be real are potentially profound for the future of life on Earth, I suppose.

Within the human community a tiny minority of self-proclaimed masters of the universe hold the ‘destiny’ of all in their hands. This elite group is operating behind the scenes these days and “growing” the global economy to such a colossal scale that it could soon become patently unsustainable on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth because our planetary home is not, definitely not “too big to fail.”

Hurry up, please, it is time for speaking out loudly, clearly and often before it is too late for human action to matter. Like it or not, ready or not, intellectually honest and morally courageous scientists have unassumed responsibilities to science.... and unfulfilled duties to humanity that must be performed.

Population control is

Population control is important.

Hi all. Many thanks for all

Hi all. Many thanks for all the comments. Here are some quick replies:

Thomas -- there's more about the relationship between climate change and the current food crisis in East Africa on the link below, which you might be interested in reading:
http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=6440

Steven and Chuka -- if you'd like to know more about Oxfam's position on population growth then have a read of question 3 on this page:
http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/faqs

Thanks again,

Richard.

DONATION TAB FOR FACEBOOK

Hi Richard,

How could I embed a donation tab on on Facebook? I would like to start a Facebook campaigning for UNITE WE WAVE- Aiming at breaking a world record Mexican Wave.  Symbolising unity and humanity! and seeking donations for our "African families and friends"

Please let me know twitter @mybankingpower or email as listed

 

 

The family of humanity as

The family of humanity as well as much of life as we know it are now here inhabitants of a finite planet with a frangible environment that is failing fast. What really matters is being inadvertently ruined on our watch by the human population, but is not being openly discussed.

My ‘blood boils’ in the truth that we have possessed knowledge of so much about ourselves as human beings with feet of clay and acknowledged so little about what has been known for so long about our distinctly human creatureliness, based upon extensive empirical research and unchallenged scientific evidence. 

This elite group is operating

This elite group is operating behind the scenes these days and “growing” the global economy to such a colossal scale that it could soon become patently unsustainable on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth because our planetary home is not, definitely not “too big to fail.”

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