‘Millions in East Africa risk extreme hunger’

As many as 28 million people across East Africa face severe hunger if the March rains fail.
With the unfolding crisis in Ukraine taking their attention, there is a real danger that the international community will not respond adequately to the escalating hunger crisis in East Africa until it is too late, Oxfam warned yesterday. 
A massive “no regrets” mobilisation of international humanitarian aid is needed now to avert destitution and to help the 21 million people already facing severe levels of hunger in the midst of conflict, flooding, and a massive two-year drought – unprecedented in 40 years – in countries across East Africa. 
“East Africa faces a profoundly alarming hunger crisis. Areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and beyond are experiencing an unfolding full-scale catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive this month, full recovery will be near impossible unless urgent action is taken today,” said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam Executive Director. 
“The repercussions of the Ukrainian conflict on the global food system will reverberate around the globe, but it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who will be among those hit hardest and fastest. Rising food prices are a hammer blow to millions of people who are already suffering multiple crises, and make the huge shortfall in aid potentially lethal.” said Bucher. 
Covid-related hikes in global food and commodity prices were already undermining the options available to heavily indebted African governments to resolve the mass hunger facing their people.
However, the crisis in Ukraine will have catastrophic new consequences as it already pushes up food and commodity prices beyond what East African governments can afford.  
Countries in East Africa import up to 90 per cent of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. As disruptions begin to affect the global trade in grains, oil, transport and fertiliser, food prices are beginning to skyrocket. They hit an all-time high last week. In Somalia, the prices for staple grains were more than double those of the previous year. 
In 2010-11, similar spikes in food prices pushed 44 million more people worldwide into extreme poverty, and indications are that the food-price inflation happening now will be even worse. 
Ahmed Mohamud Omar (70), a pastoralist from Wajir County in Kenya, told Oxfam: “Due to the droughts, our donkeys have perished and the ones remaining are too weak to pull carts. -BBC

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