Concern warns of major food crisis and “inadequate” response in East Africa

February 13, 2017
Photo by Kieran McConville

There are fears of imminent famine in Somalia and in parts of South Sudan — where Concern staff are monitoring the crises. Concern’s new report, Breaking the Cycle, says more funding is needed and that the world’s current response is “inadequate.”

Concern Worldwide is warning that another major food crisis is looming in a number of drought-hit East African countries — with famine facing the worst affected areas.

Six years since a famine in East Africa affected over 13 million and killed over a quarter of a million people, the region is again in dire and urgent humanitarian need.

Despite a planet capable of feeding us all, hunger and malnutrition remain the number one risk to health globally.

The situation is particularly bad in South Sudan and in Somalia where Concern’s country director, Abdi Rashid Haji Nur, today warns that people will be forced to either “move or die.”

Speaking from Somalia where a new president was elected on Wednesday, Abdi-Rashid said: “First, the crops fail, then livestock perish and when everything is gone the people either move or die.

“Half of Somalia’s population, 6.2 million, require urgent humanitarian assistance and we already have 1.2 million children suffering from malnutrition with 200,000 severely malnourished.”

The country director said the food crisis is very urgent and is happening in a country that lost 260,000 people in 2011, half of whom died before the official declaration of famine.

“We have sophisticated early-warning systems but all too often early warning fails to lead to early action.”

Concern — which has been responding to food and other humanitarian emergencies since 1968 — said 19.5 million people face severe food insecurity in four countries, Somalia (6.2 million), Ethiopia (5.6 million), Kenya (2.7 million) and South Sudan (5 million). Many children in these countries are suffering from severe malnutrition.

Without a massive scale up of humanitarian assistance, it is estimated that in those four countries alone, 35 million people will be unable to meet their daily food consumption needs by July this year.

Concern recently published a report about tackling the root causes of food crises, called Breaking the Cycle, which found that many crises “are predictable” with forecast and data tools that “provide warning of a developing food crisis, creating a crucial window of opportunity to act and lessen its impact on the most vulnerable.”

“preventable problems have been allowed to escalate into full-scale crises”

However, the report said: “too often the response of governments and donors is slow and inadequate, and the opportunity is wasted.”

It adds: “Preventable problems have been allowed to escalate into full-scale crises, increasing the levels of hunger, malnutrition and suffering.”

The report calls for an annual $2 billion increase in funding for the next ten years — along with many other actions, including commitments to tackle malnutrition.

Concern Worldwide Chief Executive, Dominic MacSorley, who has seen first-hand the devastating effects of famine and food insecurity in his 30 years as an aid worker, said that as each crisis escalates, so does the cost of responding.

He said: “We have sophisticated early-warning systems but all too often early warning fails to lead to early action.

“This is preventable but if we ignore what’s happening in Somalia, South Sudan and in other parts of the world, hundreds of thousands, if not millions more people will be struggling to stay alive, fleeing their homes and in need of emergency aid.”