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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. Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

Extreme hunger driven by conflict and drought hits four 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 Nigeria and Somalia are also experiencing severe hunger. Across the Gulf of Aden on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, a fourth 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 four countries. The lives of millions of people are at risk, and the number of people currently facing severe food insecurity goes well beyond these four 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 Nigeria, 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.

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Oxfam is helping nearly two million people in the four 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 December 2017

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 4.8 million people—almost half of the country—are facing extreme hunger. Nearly 4 million have been forced to flee their homes; 2 million are in neighboring countries, making this the largest refugee crisis in Africa.

Because of the conflict, this year’s harvests will be paltry or non-existent for many. The fact that South Sudan is facing this disaster now, during the harvest season, is an ominous sign for the long dry months ahead.

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. Since February 2017 when famine was declared in parts of the country, Oxfam has provided food to more than 360,000 people.

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.


In northeast Nigeria, Oxfam has helped about 400,000 people since May 2014. We have been providing families with emergency food, and cash or vouchers so they can buy food in local markets. We have also been working to provide clean water and better sanitation services. Oxfam is also helping refugees from Nigeria and others affected by the conflict in neighboring Chad and Niger. There are approximately 10.9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance across these countries, with 1.9 million of them displaced in Nigeria. Around 50,000 people in northeast Nigeria may be living in famine-like conditions.


In Somalia, Oxfam estimates there are 3.2 million people experiencing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, including 1.6 million people in Somaliland and Puntland. As many as 1.1 million people have been displaced by drought, 738,500 since November 2016. Oxfam estimates that 6.7 million people (more than half the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance.

So far, Oxfam has helped 45,408 people with clean water via trucks, improved access to infrastructure, and distributed 18,468 hygiene kits (to help families avoid water-borne diseases like cholera), and has provided cash to 33,821 people. Oxfam’s goal is to assist 200,000 people.


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, there have been more than 900,000 suspected cases of cholera, and more than 2,000 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 million people—60 percent of the population—who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, with seven million on the verge of famine in Yemen. More than three million people have fled their homes, and 20 million people (75 percent of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than one million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, and food vouchers. In response to cholera outbreak, Oxfam is delivering water, sanitation, and hygiene to help prevent the spread of the disease. The delivery of clean water, the cleaning and chlorination of water sources, along with the building of latrines and the organization of hygiene awareness sessions have benefitted 1,302,510 people.


Drought has pushed 8.5 million people in Ethiopia into crisis. Oxfam has provided clean water to more than 753,560 people, as well as more than a hundred institutions like schools and health facilities. In the Somali region, Oxfam has responded to a serious outbreak of acute watery diarrhea disease by teaching more than 50,871 people how to prevent such dangerous maladies. We have distributed cash to 131,550 individuals across the Somali region.


In Kenya, 3.4 million people are facing drought. In northern areas, where for years we have worked with communities to help build their resilience to droughts, 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. We plan to reach 600,000 people with cash assistance, clean water through repaired water points, as well as 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


When hope arrives by text

When a devastating drought hit Somaliland, crops failed and livestock perished. For some of the region’s most impoverished people, survival seemed impossible until a single text message gave them hope. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+