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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 June 29, 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

Fighting has ravaged South Sudan for the past three and a half years. More than 6 million people—45 percent of the population—are facing extreme hunger. As many as 7.5 million people now need humanitarian assistance. More than one million of these people are children who are acutely malnourished. As many as 3.8 million people have fled their homes; with nearly 2 million seeking safety in other countries.

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. In 2016, we helped more than 600,000 people across the country. We are currently providing emergency food to 415,000 people, and clean water and sanitation to 140,000. Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February; 100,000 people were living in famine, and 1 million more were on the brink. Since then Oxfam and other humanitarian organizations have raced to respond, and we have helped prevent famine from spreading—for now.

Conflict has intensified across the country. Almost everywhere the situation is getting worse. About 25,000 people in the areas previously declared in famine are still facing catastrophic levels of hunger. They have run out of ways to cope and survive. Their lives depend on aid. Although the rains are now beginning and people can start planting, it will be months until farmers can harvest crops. Hunger is will get worse until the end of July—the peak of South Sudan’s lean season.


In northeast Nigeria, Oxfam has helped about 245,000 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.


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. So far Oxfam has helped 3,857 households with clean water via trucks, and distributed 18,468 hygiene kits (to help families avoid water-borne diseases like cholera), and has provided cash to 1,500 households. Oxfam’s goal is to assist 200,000 people.


A shocking 17 million people (60 percent of the population) don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, with seven million on the verge of famine in Yemen. 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 an outbreak of cholera, 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 920,000 people, including 380,000 children.


Drought has pushed 7.8 million people in Ethiopia into crisis. Oxfam has provided clean water to half a million people and 156 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 10,000 people how to prevent such dangerous maladies. We are working to distribute cash to nearly 26,000 households.


In Kenya, 2.6 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 helped 200,000 people and 1,145 primary schools access clean water, and has reached 30,000 with messages designed to promote good hygiene as a way to avoid disease. Using an electronic cash transfer system, 32,200 people have received cash to buy food and clean water.

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


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