The food crisis that hit East Africa in the middle of 2011 affected 13 million people and in Somalia triggered the first famine of the 21st century. Providing access to food and water was central to Oxfam’s response, which reached nearly three million people.
Though triggered by poor rains—in some places, the worst in 60 years—the underlying causes of the drought and food crisis that hit East Africa in 2011 were poor governance, conflict, chronic neglect of remote arid regions, and underinvestment in small-scale food producers, such as farmers and pastoralists. For countless people, the consequences were dire: their livestock died, their harvests failed, and their livelihoods were destroyed. In Somalia, where famine struck, tens of thousands of people are believed to have died.
Working with communities, governments, and local and international NGOs, Oxfam reached more than 2.8 million people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia with safe water, sanitation, cash, and other support. This assistance provided both lifesaving humanitarian aid and long-term development to help communities cope with a changing climate and increasingly frequent droughts. But rebuilding lives and livelihoods will require sustained effort for years to come.
Some disasters can’t be prevented—or imagined in advance. But as soon as they strike, Oxfam needs to be ready to respond. Lives depend on it.
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