One person is likely to die of hunger every 36 seconds between now and the end of the year in drought-stricken East Africa as the worst hit areas hurtle towards famine, Oxfam warned today.
The international agency warned that the situation in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya is deteriorating fast. In Somalia, it is the worst hunger crisis in living memory, with the number of people experiencing acute hunger already surpassing that of the famine of 2011, when more than a quarter of a million people died. Almost one in six people in Somalia are now facing extreme hunger.
Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s President and CEO said, “We are already witnessing a disaster unfold and cannot wait for famine to be declared to activate resources to save lives and invest to make sure we never see this unfold in Somalia - or anywhere – ever again. We have been ringing the alarm but only see the situation continue to deteriorate. I saw first-hand last month the unthinkable hardships people, who have done nothing to cause this crisis, are experiencing. It is not an act of aid, but our collective obligation to act now.”
Large parts of the region have suffered four failed rainy seasons – with a fifth likely to unfold over the next three months – as climate change has decimated crops and forced pastoralists to abandon their traditional way of life. The crisis has been exacerbated in many places by conflict, the fallout from Covid-19, and by rising food prices due in part to the war in Ukraine.
Oxfam analysis of the latest available data suggests that the rate at which people in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are dying of hunger has increased since May when it estimated that a person was dying every 48 seconds and dangerous delays in providing aid to millions on the brink of starvation. Lack of available data meant it was not possible to include South Sudan, which is in the grip of its own hunger crisis caused by flooding and conflict.
Across the four countries, more than 6 million children face or are already suffering acute malnutrition.
Parvin Ngala, Oxfam Horn East and Central Africa Regional Director, said: “The clock is ticking inexorably towards famine and more and more people are dying as hunger tightens its grip.
“After four seasons of failed rains, people are losing their struggle to survive – their livestock have died; crops have failed; and food prices have been pushed ever higher by the war in Ukraine. The alarm has been sounding for months, but donors are yet to wake up to the terrible reality. With another failed rains expected, failure to act will turn a crisis into a full-scale catastrophe."
There is currently a total funding gap of more than $3 billion in UN appeals for Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan.
Prices of basic foodstuffs across the region have often doubled and sometimes tripled in recent months, driven by local shortages and the rise in global process exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
Notes to editors:
- Interviews, photos and testimony of people affected by the crisis plus B-roll available on request.
- To calculate the daily deaths, we used the crude death rate of (0.5-0.99) per 10,000 people in Crisis (IPC 3) levels of acute food insecurity as specified in The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Global Partners (2021), as per Technical Manual Version 3.1: Evidence and Standards for Better Food Security and Nutrition Decisions. Then, we subtracted the normal daily death rate of 0.22 per 10,000 people per day; this figure is based on data from the UN and from national, EU, and Pacific Community statistical offices.
- As of October 2022, across the three countries, the crude death rate is at least 880-2,421 per day, 0.61-1.68 per minute, i.e., between one every 1.6 minutes and one every 36 seconds. These figures are conservative, since they are based on the crude death rate for IPC 3, and do not take into account the higher crude death rates for IPC 4 and 5.
- Across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, approximately 31,435,315 people are now estimated to be in Crisis or worse (IPC 3 and above) or similar levels of acute food insecurity. According to IPC analyses (see IPC Population Tracking Tool), 11,035,315 people across Kenya and Somalia are projected to face high levels of acute hunger (IPC 3 and above) in October-December 2022. There are no recent IPC analyses for Ethiopia so we have used a proxy figure of 20.4m people experiencing acute food insecurity across Ethiopia, as per the number of People in Need (PiN) of food security and livelihoods assistance in the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Ethiopia, and as also used in the FAO-WFP Hunger Hotspot report for October 2022 to January 2023.
- In May 2022, 22.4-23.4m people across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia faced high levels of acute hunger (IPC 3 and above). This included: 7.4 million across Ethiopia (as per the IPC projection for July-September 2021); 5.5-6.5 million people in southeast Ethiopia (April 2022 estimate); 3.5 million people from Kenya (March-June 2022 IPC projection); and 6 million people in Somalia (April-June 2022 IPC projection). Across the three countries, the crude death rate was at least 627-1,802 per day, 0.44-1.25 per minute, i.e., between one every 2.5 minutes and one every 48 seconds.