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Hunger and famine crises

This woman arrived in Nyal, in Panyijar County, South Sudan, to register for a food distribution.Emergency hunger levels have been declared in the county. Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

Extreme hunger driven by conflict and drought hits three nations.

A catastrophic humanitarian crisis is pushing nearly half of South Sudan’s population into extreme hunger—and in some areas people are struggling to survive in famine-like conditions. Parts of Somalia are also experiencing severe hunger. Across the Gulf of Aden on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, a third country—Yemen—is also on the brink of famine. If aid or services do not arrive immediately, malnutrition and death will increase exponentially in all three countries. The lives of millions of people are at risk, and the number of people currently facing severe food insecurity goes well beyond these three countries. Ethiopia and Kenya are affected by the same drought as Somalia, and additional aid is needed there now to meet needs and to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

The problem is a man-made one: Conflict and insecurity have plagued South Sudan and Yemen. In Somalia, drought and weak governance have followed years of fighting. But man-made problems thankfully have man-made solutions: the international community can help resolve these conflicts and send help to prevent the situation from getting worse.


Donate now

Oxfam is helping nearly two million people in the three hunger-ravaged countries, providing families with desperately needed food, clean drinking water, and sanitation. But we need to scale up those efforts, and we urgently need your support to help save lives.


“My youngest son is sick. His body is weak. I went to the hospital and they told me he was suffering from malnutrition. He’s unstable and has to eat healthy food to recover. I’m afraid my little son will die and I would blame myself because I couldn’t buy enough food for him. I was even thinking of selling my kidney before I received some humanitarian aid.” -Yahya, a retired soldier in Yemen who is worried about how to feed his children. 

Oxfam's response

Updated March 2018

Countries tip into famine and dangerous levels of hunger when people are unable to find, grow, or pay for food. Chronic poverty is part of the cause, coupled with weak governance and conflict—especially when the fighting displaces families, cutting them off from outside assistance, while destroying their markets and making it impossible for them to make a living or work their fields.

South Sudan

South Sudan is facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis driven by nearly four years of brutal civil war.

Right now, 6.3 million people are struggling to get enough to eat, and are dependent on humanitarian aid that is increasingly difficult to access. 4.8 million of these people—almost half of the country—are facing extreme hunger. More South Sudanese people are hungry than ever before. Approximately 4.2 million have been forced to flee their homes; 2.4 million are in neighboring countries.

In the more than 30 years Oxfam has worked in these affected areas, it has never witnessed such dire need. Oxfam has been providing clean water and sanitation services to help prevent the spread of diseases—like cholera and diarrhea—which can lead to malnutrition and prove fatal.

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February 2017. Since then, humanitarian aid has helped halt famine, but the situation continues to rapidly deteriorate across the country.


Drought spanning four consecutive rainy seasons in some parts of Somalia has 3.2 million people experiencing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, including 1.2 million malnourished children. In total, Oxfam estimates 5.4 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

In 2017, Oxfam reached 124,163 people, including cash contributions to 22,302 people and distribution of hygiene kits, clean water, and latrine repairs.


War, blockade, high food and fuel prices have pushed Yemen to the verge of famine. Relentless fighting is leaving people without clean water, food, hospitals, and schools.

Since April 2017, there have been more than 1,073,082 suspected cases of cholera, and more than 2,263 deaths from this preventable disease as a direct result of conflict. This is the largest and fastest-spreading cholera outbreak in recorded history.

There are already a shocking 17.8 million people—60 percent of the population—who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, with 8.4 million on the verge of famine in Yemen (a 24 percent increase since April 2017). More than three million people have fled their homes, and 22.2 million people (75 percent of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached 1.5 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, and food vouchers.

In response to a cholera outbreak, Oxfam is delivering water, sanitation, and hygiene to help prevent the spread of the disease.


Oxfam estimates 6 million people in Ethiopia are at risk of disease outbreak. We have reached more than 878,000 people with clean water and other services, and immunized 638,056 head of cattle. In the Somali region, Oxfam has responded to a serious outbreak of acute watery diarrhea disease with clean water and by teaching more than 123,672 people how to prevent such dangerous maladies. We have distributed cash to 209,724 individuals across the Somali region.


The government of Kenya is estimating the number of people who are severely food insecure will be 2 million in a worsening drought. In northern areas, where for years Oxfam has worked with communities to help build their resilience to dry spells, we are helping communities repair their wells to ensure families can survive this unusually severe emergency.

Oxfam has rehabilitated wells in Wajir and Turkana counties that are now providing clean water to 284,631 people. Oxfam has reached more than 500,000 people with cash assistance, clean water through repaired water points, and information on good hygiene through radio programs and community mobilizers. We will also provide families with items like jerry cans and buckets so they can store water safely, as well as chlorine to treat water and soap for good hygiene.

We urgently need your support to help save lives in these areas. Please donate now to help.

Stories & updates

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