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War, drought spark famine across Africa

  • Published at 10:48 pm April 2nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:48 pm April 2nd, 2017
War, drought spark famine across Africa

Millions of people in over a dozen countries in the Horn of Africa and southern Africa are facing the peak effect of severe drought that hit the regions resulting in famine.

Worst among the countries are Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria in West Africa who are part of the more than 20 million people estimated by the United Nations to be facing severe famine and starvation in the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that Somalia is at risk of its third famine in 25 years after the previous crisis in 2011 that killed about 260,000 people.

The Horn of Africa is facing its third consecutive year of drought causing thirst and hunger, decimating livestock, destroying livelihoods, spreading disease and triggering large scale population movements.

Somalia’s neighbour Kenya is also facing drought in half of the country – 23 of its 47 counties nationwide.

United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien described the crisis to the Security Council as the largest since the second world war in 1945, and an amount of $4.4bn is needed “to avert a catastrophe” in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula.

For the other drought-ridden countries including Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched an appeal last year for emergency aid estimated at $109m to cover 23 million people.

Source of the crisis

The UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien clearly stated after a visit that the famine in South Sudan is man-made due to the three-year civil war in the world’s newest country which is facing a worse situation.

Like South Sudan, the famine in northeastern Nigeria is as a result of the seven-year insurgency of the Islamist sect Boko Haram killing over 20,000 people and with at least 2.6 million people displaced and 5.8 million in dire need of humanitarian aid.

The Horn of Africa countries are facing its third consecutive year of drought.

Ethiopia is experiencing below average rains in the southern and eastern parts of the country caused by the negative Indian Ocean dipole and La Nina leading to drought.

This is a repeat of last year when drought caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon left 10.2m people hungry and several hundred thousand of animals killed.

Somalia is also facing the brunt of the climate change coupled with the Islamist group al-Shabaab insurgency which is battling the UN-backed government for over a decade.

According to the UN, 6.2m people in Somalia need humanitarian assistance and protection, including 2.9m who are at risk of famine and require immediate help.

During the previous famine in 2011, humanitarian response was slow and nearly 260,000 people died before the famine was officially declared in July.

For Kenya, the climate change is causing drought which is affecting 23 of its 47 counties in the country.

The ten southern Africa countries (Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are also facing the brunt of the El Nino climate phenomenon.

Internal efforts

South Sudan

The South Sudanese government declared famine in two regions of the East African country where more than 100,000 people do not have access to food.

The declaration was backed by three UN agencies: Food and Agriculture Organisation, Unicef and the World Food Programme.

Despite support offered by international aid agencies, some government officials are accused of blocking agencies from delivering food aid to some parts of the country.

President Salva Kiir promised last month to grant access to major NGOs that will provide food assistance to the hunger-stricken civilians. But, they in-turn hiked work permit fees 100-fold for foreign aid workers to $10,000 dollars from $100.


Somalia’s President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed ‘Farmajo’ declared the ongoing drought in the country a national disaster to address the humanitarian emergency in all affected areas.

He called on small businesses in the country and nationals in the diaspora to contribute in avoiding a disaster.


Kenya has also declared the drought a national disaster and called for local and international support of the government to contain the situation.

The Kenyan government has pledged $99m to support national drought response efforts.

The government also set aside about $1.5m to be disbursed to various institutions in the country to bolster the school feeding program in parts of the country experiencing drought.


The Ethiopian government has been distributing food aid to areas hit by the drought. Addis Ababa has gone as far as send food aid to Somaliland last month.

Northeastern Nigeria

The government of Nigeria announced in May 2016 the disbursment of $41 million to rebuild and implement support programmes for about 1.8 million refugees in the Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs).

In July 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari established a Presidential Committee on North-East Interventions (PCNI) to coordinate domestic and international humanitarian efforts, but as of July 2016, the committee had still not been inaugurated.

In December last year, He accused the UN and aid agencies of deliberately exaggerating the humanitarian crisis to get more funds.

The Borno State governor Kashim Shettima in January accused some aid agencies of wasting funds meant to help victims of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency and concentrating too much on the IDP camps instead of recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation.


Zimbabwe is awaiting a $1.6bn aid package which will be used to pay for grain and other food items.

African efforts

Uganda is now host to over 780,000 South Sudanese refugees with an average of 2,500 crossing the border every day to escape attacks and hunger, according to the UNHCR.

President Museveni has been commended for his country’s response to the humanitarian crisis despite Uganda’s own food crisis which is not at alarming proportions due to adoption of new agricultural practices spearheaded by the government.

A few is being done from Africa as against the vibrant campaigns ongoing outside the continent to support aid organisations.

International appeals

Pope Francis last month called for urgent humanitarian aid for the starving people of South Sudan, saying millions risk being condemned to death by famine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an aid campaign to help the four East African countries hit by the acute drought including Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

The World Bank Group President Jim Yong-Kim announced that the bank was working towards raising $1.6bn to build social protection systems to end the food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen.

The Queen of England is making a personal donation towards helping those facing starvation in East Africa while the UK government has pledged to match public donations pound for pound, up to £5m.

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