According to estimations by Oxfam and Save the Children in a study published on the 17th of May 2022, one person dies of hunger every 48 seconds in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa. This development has stressed the world's continuous inability to prevent catastrophic disasters,
More than a decade after the world's tardy response to the 2011 famine in Somalia, which killed more than 260,000 people, half of whom were children under the age of five, the world is failing to avert devastating starvation in East Africa once again.
Nearly half a million people in Somalia and Ethiopia are currently suffering from famine, and 3.5 million people are severely malnourished in Kenya. Other crises, such as the war in Ukraine, exacerbate the region's escalating hunger problem.
Since 2021, the number of people suffering from extreme hunger in the three nations has more than doubled, rising from over 10 million to over 23 million today. This is set against a backdrop of debilitating debt that has more than tripled in less than a decade, draining resources from public services and social protection in these countries.
Gabriela Bucher, the Executive Director of Oxfam International, stated that "Despite mounting warning signs, international leaders have failed miserably. The efforts are too late and still too little. Millions of people are facing starvation." Famine is a political failure, she added.
Despite enhanced warning systems, self-serving political decisions continue to block a coordinated global response. In reaction to several global crises, such as COVID-19 and, more recently, the Ukraine conflict, rich countries have turned inwards, notably by reneging on pledged aid to impoverished countries and pushing them to the brink of starvation.
Governments in East Africa should take responsibility for this catastrophe because they delay coming up with solutions and frequently refuse to accept the gravity of the problem. They have not invested enough in agricultural or social support programs to assist people cope with hunger.
The recent report also highlights donors' and aid agencies' persistent failure to prioritize local organizations at the forefront of disaster response, slowing the reaction even when they were ready to respond.
Economic instability in these countries has resulted in people failing to buy food. The fighting in Ukraine has also pushed already-rising food costs to new highs, rendering food inaccessible to millions.
Kijala Shako, Save the Children's Regional Spokesperson for East and Southern Africa stated that "We're witnessing horrible amounts of severe malnutrition with up to 5.7 million children experiencing acute malnutrition by the end of this year." The United Nations has warned that if nothing is done, more than 350,000 people could die.
Both humans and cattle are in danger of dying; children, pregnant women, and the elderly have already died in areas of Kenya's Marsabit and Samburu counties. "The situation is awful and we are likely to see considerably more deaths if immediate help is not offered" said Jane Meriwas, director of the Samburu Women's Trust in Kenya.
Climate change has exacerbated and prolonged the drought in the Horn of Africa, which is currently the worst in 40 years. Drought has depleted economic reserves, herd size, and human health and is a key contributor to the growing number of people who go hungry every day. Despite this, the region is one of the least responsible for the climate crisis, accounting for only 0.1 percent of global carbon emissions.
• Rather than waiting for crises to spiral out of control, development organizations, governments, and the business sector must collaborate with affected communities to prepare for and respond to risks.
• East African governments must increase social protection to help people cope with many shocks.
• The countries should invest at least 10% of their budgets in agriculture, with a special focus on smallholder and female farmers.
• National governments must put lives over politics by acknowledging and acting on early warnings. They should be quicker to declare national crises, divert national resources to the most vulnerable, and invest in climate-related disaster response.