A dry river bed  in Somalia A dry river bed in Somalia  (AFP or licensors)

Aid agencies call for urgent action against famine in Horn of Africa

Save the Children and Church aid agencies are calling on the international community for urgent humanitarian aid to Ethiopia, Somalia Kenya where at least 16 million people risk starvation due to the the worst drought in 40 years.

By Lisa Zengarini

Churches and international organizations are sounding the alarm bell over the threat of famine hanging over Eastern Africa, as a result of the worst drought in the region in 40 years.

Over 16 million people in urgent need of food assistance 

According to Save the Children and the Intergovernmental Government Authority on Development (IGAD) which gathers  a block of eight countries in the Horn of Africa, an estimated 16 million people, including many children, are in urgent need of food assistance in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, where three successive rain seasons have failed.  Of these, 6 to 6.5 million are in Ethiopia, 3.5 in Kenya and 6 the million in Somalia. It is also anticipated that floods and insecurity in South Sudan will push another 8 million people into acute food insecurity. In the entire IGAD region, 29 million are facing high food insecurity.

Scientists and relief agencies are blaming climate change for bringing droughts countries  battered by conflicts and more recently by COVID-19 pandemic.


In Kenya some main water sources – rivers, boreholes, and shallow wells – have insufficient water for both humans and livestock. Many boreholes are already dry, forcing people to travel kilometers to collect water.

“In the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya children often manage to have only one meal a day . (...) families and children are getting closer to hunger every hour. We urgently call on the international community to make more funds available f before the situation gets out of hand - Yvonne Arunga, director of Save the Children Kenya.”


In Somalia over the past eight months more than 720,000 people, who have already been severely affected by decades of armed conflict, terrorist attacks, political instability, and COVID-19, have fled their homes in search of food and water.

Save the Children reports that, according to United Nations estimates, if the situation is not addressed promptly, 1.4 million children could be severely malnourished by the middle of the year.

Cases of malnutrition are also on the rise in Kenya, where 755,000 children, and 103,000 pregnant and lactating women are in need of urgent care to cope with acute malnutrition.


Save the Children also highlights that the prolonged and devastating drought in Ethiopia is destroying the resilience of children and families  who have already been worn out by over 17 months of war in the country and two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 8.1 million people are in need of immediate food aid, and over 286,000 have been forced to flee their homes in search of food and water. Herding families have lost over 1.46 million cattle. As a result, children run out of milk, their main source of nourishment, and nearly 890,000 children under the age of five now suffer from malnutrition.

"The hunger emergency in Ethiopia is destined to worsen in the coming months due to the fourth rainy season which recorded below-average rainfall, as well as the approaching lean season which runs from June to September", says the national director of Save the Children in Ethiopia, Xavier Joubert.

The impact of the war in Ukraine

Save the Children, alongside Church organizations engaged in humanitarian aid in the region, further calls attention to the fact that the crisis has been aggravated by the war in Ukraine, which is driving up food prices (especially of wheat, 90% of which is imported from  Russia and Ukraine), also diverting international attention from  the impending humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn of Africa.

Reduced humanitarian aid

Finn Church Aid (FCA), a Finnish a faith based agency member of the global ACT Alliance network for Christian aid organizations, has lamented that governments across Europe are cutting funding from development budgets and reallocating it to Ukraine.

The  Church aid organization maintains  that tackling one crisis while increasing instability somewhere else is not a sustainable solution. According to FCA Executive Director Jouni Hemberg, “developed countries, those who are largely responsible for climate change, must take responsibility for this. We must help those who are suffering because of it”, he said.  

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22 April 2022, 14:30