As over 20 million people teeter on the brink of famine in East Africa, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has launched a powerful campaign film to draw the UK public’s attention to the severity of the climate induced crisis and the need for urgent action.  

During the recent heatwave in the UK, the IRC took a film crew to Margate, Kent to engage members of the UK public with the devastating impacts of ongoing drought – before revealing that these shocking statistics were actually currently happening to the people of East Africa. Those interviewed were appalled to learn thousands of people have already lost their lives and that millions more lives, including those of 1.8 million children, remain at risk as a result of global inaction. 

The film comes after a new poll, conducted by the IRC in conjunction with YouGov, showed that the majority of the UK public believes countries around the world, including the UK, should do more to help prevent a famine in East Africa through means like funding and political action. 

These findings come as the UN has announced that famine is at the door in Somalia and world leaders have a “narrow window of opportunity to act in order to prevent what could otherwise become a full-fledged famine” in a few months. 

The IRC welcomed the Government’s announcement last week that it will redirect £22.8 million towards the hunger crisis in Somalia. However, more needs to be done to increase funding where possible and mobilise alongside other countries to mount a swift and focused international response, aimed at preventing the worst outcomes in the most at-risk contexts. 

Laura Kyrke-Smith, Executive Director at the International Rescue Committee UK, said:  

“The IRC is proud to share our new campaign video to raise awareness of the ongoing crisis and impending famine in East Africa. The genuine and dismayed reactions of the members of the public we spoke to, alongside the results of our recent poll, proves that despite facing an economic crisis at home, the British people remain compassionate, outward-looking, and concerned about the fate of those facing famine in East Africa. 

"Whilst we welcome the new funding announced last week, we urge the new Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, to heed the public's calls for action, and act urgently and immediately to prevent famine. 

"In 2016, the UK played a key role in preventing famine in East Africa, learning from the international community’s failure to do so in 2011, providing critical leadership and delivering nearly £700 million in emergency humanitarian funding. They can and must do so again – lives depend on it.” 

East Africa is home to some of the IRC’s longest-running programs globally, with operations in Somalia for over 40 years, Kenya for 30 years and Ethiopia for 20 years. Today, over 2,000 IRC staff in the region are scaling up our programs to address the current drought and rising food insecurity, including expanding to new areas to meet severe needs.