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Hunger Crisis in East Africa


Continuous failed rains have shrivelled crops, depleted livestock and left millions of people across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia in urgent need of food. As drought tightens its grip across the region, children’s lives hang in the balance.

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We’ve been here before. We know what to do. In order to prevent millions going hungry, we need to act and we need to act fast. 

We need to provide families with the tools and services they need to help build their resilience, as increased droughts and erratic weather patterns push them to their limits. For communities who depend on rains for their food and livelihoods, these failed rains threaten their survival.

A climate crisis

Climate change is undoubtedly having an impact. Families used to experience one year of drought in every ten years.  In the last decade, they have experienced more than three severe droughts in the worst hit areas.

Communities are used to coping with failed rains. But this prolonged drought and successive flooding is unrelenting – and they can’t bounce back without urgent help.

Fatima's* Story

Amina and her daughter Fatima* at the Stabilisation Centre, Gardo General Hospital
Fatima's* first day back home after returning from the Stabilisation Centre

Amina and her 9 month-old daughter Fatima* were referred to a stabilisation centre - losing her livelihood meant Amina wasn't able to feed her family and Fatima was very sick when she arrived. She had diarrhoea and vomiting, and needed urgent treatment to survive.

But after ten days of treatment, mum Amina felt reassured. She could see that Fatima was putting on weight. The diarrhoea and vomiting stopped. Fatima is now back home and spending time with her family. Amina says, 'I wish for my children to live a life of good health, and receive a good education.'

A children's emergency

Infographic to show the complex effects of drought on children, showing how drought can prevent children from going to school,

Children are always most vulnerable in a food crisis. Families are forced to flee their homes whether in search of food, water, or an income. This can result in children dropping out of school, denying them of a future.

What we're doing to help

Right now we're;

  • screening children and mothers for severe malnutrition,
  • raising awareness in communities around health and hygiene practices,
  • ensuring families have access to clean water,
  • providing healthcare through mobile teams,
  • giving young children and breastfeeding mothers nutritious food,
  • transporting clean water and training communities to install and repair water systems

Understanding the issue

The Horn of Africa is the most eastern point of the continent of Africa which on the map looks a little like a rhino's horn. Definitions of which countries constitute the Horn of Africa vary but the focus of our response is in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.  

The term food insecurity is used to describe the situation of people who do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Across the region, nearly 12 million people are facing severe food shortages. In Ethiopia, 8.1 million people are severely food insecure, as are 2.5 million people in Kenya. In Somalia, up to 6.3 million people are also struggling to access sufficient nutritious food for their families.

As climate change makes extreme weather more unpredictable and stronger, including more frequent and more severe droughts and flooding, children will likely suffer the most.

Families' livestock and crops can die, leaving them without an income and children without enough to eat and at risk of acute malnutrition - a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. Malnourished children are far more vulnerable to diseases and even when treated successfully, severe acute malnutrition can prevent a child from developing well, physically and mentally. It remains one of the biggest killers of children under five around the world.

Both droughts and floods can also force families from their homes whether in search of food, water or an income. This can result in children dropping out of school, denying them of a future. Whilst on the move, children can also become separated from their families, leaving them with no-one to turn to and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It can also leave families without access to healthcare or shelter to protect them, leaving them exposed to waterborne diseases.

At the beginning of 2017, millions of children were starving as an extreme food crisis tightened its grip across East Africa. A combination of prolonged drought and conflict caused a devastating cycle of hunger and disease.

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan, while the food insecurity in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya was reaching catastrophic levels.

Save the Children was proud to be at the forefront of the international response, leading calls to action and scaling up our programmes in affected regions at an unprecedented rate. Thanks to the incredible response from our supporters, working closely with the rest of the international community, we helped avert famine in many areas across the region.

Right now, the need is even greater than in 2017. Still struggling to recover from the last drought, even more children need our help to fight back against this crisis – and have the chance to reach their potential.

Right now we're;

  • distributing tarpaulin, blankets and mosquito nets,
  • distributing cash grants to families for food and necessities

Right now we're;

  •  setting up temporary learning spaces so that children who’ve had to leave their homes can continue their education,
  • tracing and reuniting children with their families,
  • running safe spaces where children can learn, play and receive psychosocial support

Right now, we're;

  • training community members so they can diversify their income-sources, helping them to earn a sustainable living in case of future shocks,
  • helping local families make the most of their natural resources,
  • building and repairing boreholes and health systems, so families are more resilient during extended periods of drought,
  • creating community-based disaster-management committees, who can develop their own plans and strategies to adapt to extreme weather according to their local needs


Our Emergency Fund

This special reserve of money allows us to coordinate a humanitarian response so that in the event of an emergency - like the hunger crisis in East Africa - we're able to act quickly and save countless lives.

Donate to our emergency fund

More ways to get involved