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This hunger crisis is all of our responsibility

S.A.M. It’s a child killer. Right now, 1.7 million children’s lives are in its grip.

Because S.A.M. stands for severe acute malnutrition. A hunger so extreme, it ravages the mind and body. It’s devastating towns and villages in  Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.  And targeting children under five.

Famine-like conditions are not a natural or inevitable state in East Africa. As our Country Director in Somalia, Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, says:

“We live in a world where we know how to prevent extreme hunger, yet hundreds of thousands of people still die from lack of food.

“Today, allowing hunger around the world is a political choice.”

At the heart of the hunger crisis is a lethal cocktail of climate change, covid, poverty and the war in Ukraine. Food prices are skyrocketing, droughts are lasting longer and floods are becoming more severe.

In other words, many of the root causes of extreme hunger in East Africa aren’t local but global. 

This crisis is all of our responsibility.


The situation facing families in East Africa is desperate, The rains have failed for the fourth time in a row, turning crops and animals’ grazing land to dust.

“Droughts used to happen, but I never encountered one as severe as this,” says Abdilihi, a herder in Somalia. In recent months he’s had to watch many of his cattle die from lack of pasture.

Local communities know all too well that the climate is changing. And while it's a worldwide crisis, it’s also intensely personal. In East Africa right now it’s being played out through millions of individual battles for survival.

For rural communities here, herding animals and growing crops are a way of life and an essential means of livelihood. But now many families have no choice but to leave their communities, move to camps and look for work. 

Like 17-year-old Bishaaro* (pictured above) and her family. After moving to a camp in Somalia, she says they now only eat one meal a day.

“We used to have five cows but they all died,” says Bishaaro. “Before the drought, we used to grow maize, sorghum and other crops. We were living a good life.”

“But there’s a drought now. And there’s climate change.”

Bishaaro’s story highlights the profound injustice of the climate emergency. East Africa emits less than 0.05% of global CO2. Yet she and her family find themselves on the climate crisis frontline.


Drought was already hard enough. But the impact of covid has piled on more pressure, hitting families’ incomes and savings, and disrupting life-saving health services.

Much of the casual work many families relied on to supplement their incomes – particularly in a time of drought – has disappeared. At the same time, amid the global economic downturn, many families saw a sudden drop in another vital source of cash: money sent by relatives working abroad.

On top of that, a global shortage of grain as a result of the war in Ukraine has sent food prices in East Africa soaring. Before the war, 90% of Somalia’s wheat imports came from Ukraine and Russia. Now some areas of the country have seen food prices shoot up fivefold.

It's a perfect storm. And across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, millions of dangerously malnourished children are feeling its full force. Their futures are under threat as they face a daily fight to survive.


Right now we’re supporting  nurses, doctors and community health workers, who have been selected by their villages, to get life-saving treatment to dangerously malnourished children. And our teams are providing  long-term support to families living on the edge.

We are:

  • saving children’s lives with emergency nutrition and healthcare
  • giving struggling families cash support to help them take back control of their lives
  • providing drought-resistant crops, so even when there is little rainfall, farmers can still grow food for their families
  • improving water supplies and storage
  • giving children in drought-hit communities safe spaces to play and learn so that they can begin to recover.

Donate now. Help stop the spread of severe hunger.


We urgently need to save children’s lives and to support communities to recover.

But we can’t stop there. We must tackle this crisis at its roots – from climate change to poverty to war,

Britain has a key role and responsibility. Already, UK aid helps save lives and strengthen communities. But aid alone won’t deliver the deep-rooted changes that are needed.

It’s time to get serious about tackling the climate crisis.

Time to offer the worst-affected countries a hand up, not a handout, to develop their economies for the long term.

And time to give children a fair chance of the future they deserve.

Find out 3 easy ways you can help.  


Photo: Bishaaro*, 17, from Somalia, and her family have had to leave their home after their livestock died and their crops failed in the drought. They’re now living in a camp. (Randa Ghazy/ Save the Children)

* We’ve changed Bishaaro’s name to help keep her safe.

East Africa Hunger Crisis