The International Rescue Committee is concerned about the rising number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in East Africa due to increasing conflict, erratic weather and secondary effects of COVID-19. The scale and severity of food insecurity in places such as Ethiopia and Sudan are amongst the worst humanitarian crises globally with areas within many of the countries in the region seeing emergency or catastrophic levels of hunger. 

Kurt Tjossem, Regional Vice President for East Africa at the International Rescue Committee, said

“Conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as well as below average rainfall in some parts of Ethiopia has disrupted the planting season. If planting continues to be disrupted, we could see catastrophic levels of hunger within months. Now that one of the main supply routes into Tigray has been destroyed, we are concerned with access to the 4.5 million people in need in the region. The risk of renewed desert locust outbreaks also pose a threat to the harvesting season in East Africa. Changes in climate have led to increases in cyclones which feed locust swarms with water. Furthermore, extreme flooding drives further humanitarian need for example in Somalia where recent flooding has displaced 919,000 people in 2020 alone.

“We are now seeing the delta COVID-19 variant in the region. Uganda, for example, has run out of oxygen and is struggling to keep up with demand for COVID-19 patients in hospitals where 97% of cases are of the new highly infectious Delta variant. In the Democratic Republic of Congo which is still reeling from a recent volcanic eruption, the delta variant accounts for 79% of all new cases. With just 1% of the population in the whole continent of Africa vaccinated, the delta variant could cause unprecedented levels of havoc in densely populated areas such as refugee camps.

“Economic crises and below average harvests in places like Sudan and Ethiopia have driven up food prices and reduced the purchasing power of ordinary citizens. The region saw 12.75million people internally displaced this year including from Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan most of whom depend on international humanitarian assistance due to the lack of livelihood opportunities in-country. With a severe lack of funding for most of the humanitarian responses in these countries, food consumption gaps will continue to be severe for those in need.”

The International Rescue Committee is calling for a cessation of conflicts and increase in international support for the region. By supporting frontline responders to implement proven solutions – such as humanitarian cash distribution and malnutrition treatment. The hunger crisis is a critical chance to deploy a combined approach of development and diplomacy, removing barriers to sustained humanitarian access and holding those who use hunger as a weapon of war to account. A secure aid budget – fulfilled in line with the internationally endorsed target of 0.7 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) – and risk-informed financing that can be quickly deployed, is critical to mitigating the impact of future shocks. Investing now to tackle hunger and food insecurity will save time, money and lives in the long run.