Due to soaring wheat costs, Covid failures and desert locusts, severe food insecurity is threatening up to 28 millions people
Aid agencies warn that the conflict in Ukraine is causing a hunger crisis in East Africa, as drought grips the region, and food prices soar.
The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of its worst droughts in recent times. Since October 2020, three consecutive rainy seasons failed to materialize and below-average rainfall is forecast for March-May.
Jane Meriwas is a pastoralist who is also the founder and executive director at the Samburu Women Trust in Kenya. She spoke at an event in Nairobi on Tuesday.
“Trauma is real and people are suffering in silence,” said Meriwas. “Let’s not close our eyes and say that Africa is not suffering and focus a lot on Ukraine. Let’s not turn a blind eye to this crisis because all of us are equal.”
Oxfam, an antipoverty charity warns that 20 million people will be forced into extreme food insecurity in Kenya and Somalia by average or below-average March-May rains. South Sudan is facing its fifth consecutive year of severe flooding and up to eight million more people could go hungry.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is making things worse by impeding the wheat trade. The two countries account for about a quarter of the world’s wheat exports. That includes the supply of around 90% of East Africa’s imported wheat.
East Africa’s average national cereal consumption of wheat is a third, with imports accounting for 84%. Wheat prices have risen by 80% since the invasion, and more disruption is likely.
Comment:Climate finance should not compete with aid for Ukraine
A drought over four consecutive rainy seasons would be “unprecedented” since records began around 1920, Chris Funk, director of the Climate Hazards Center, at the University of California Santa Barbara, told Climate Home News.
Funk explained that dry spells in eastern Africa are linked to La Niña, a weather pattern that is driven by the cooling of ocean waters in the eastern Pacific.
Human-caused climate change has contributed to the warming of the western pacific, which in turn strengthens La Niña and increases the probability of drought in East Africa.
Extremely warm air in the region between December and February also played a part in drying up water holes, which are crucial for many pastoralist communities. The region’s crop production is down as high as 70%.
Modi Mbaraza is the executive director of the Young Women Christian Association of South Sudan. She said that vulnerable people, including women, girls and the elderly, are at greatest risk of starvation because millions of livestock have been killed in the region.
The Covid-19 pandemic, ballooning government debt, a desert locust plague and conflict have weakened people’s safety nets.
Global food prices reached an all-time high in February, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They will likely rise further as a result of the war.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 70% more people are in dire need of food assistance than during the previous food crises of 2016-2017.
The World Food Programme predicts Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia will be hardest hit by the shock to global wheat trade due to their large wheat demand.
The conflict has also had an impact on the price of sunflower oil, a widely used commodity. Nearly three quarters (75%) of global exports come from Russia and Ukraine.
In Ethiopia, a week after the Russian invasion, the price of sunflower oil rose by 215%, said Gezahegn Kebede, country director of Oxfam Ethiopia, speaking of the “direct impact” of the war on the hunger crisis.
Humanitarian groups warn that even if the rains arrive this month, millions will be hungry unless preventative measures are taken.
“The crisis in Ukraine, which is causing so much suffering there, is also amplifying suffering across the world,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International.
“The brutal truth is at the moment Africa is not on the global agenda. 2022 cannot be the year in which hundreds of thousands die from an avoidable hunger crisis in East Africa.”
Oxfam urges grain exporters to do everything they can to make up the shortages from Ukraine to poorer nations.
The charity is asking governments to fund a UN humanitarian appeal worth $6 billion for South Sudan and Somalia. Kenya has received only 11% of the UN flash appeal’s funding, while only 3% has been paid.
Source: Climate Change News