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Oxfam: act now to stop famine in East Africa

14 June 2023

Two people a minute are dying of hunger in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, where the current biggest humanitarian crisis is getting worse by the day. Despite the extreme challenges facing the region, the world has largely failed to act.

Mareya is a farmer in Kenya. Of her 31 cattle, she has only 7 left, the rest have died due to the drought. Photo: Khadija Farah/Oxfam

Over 31.5 million people are facing acute hunger - more than the entire population of the Nordic region combined. Oxfam is now calling on the Swedish government to help prevent the impending famine by collecting signatures for an open letter to Minister for Development Cooperation Johan Forssell.

"It is with great disappointment that we note that the Swedish government is moving away from being a global role model and reducing its aid. The hunger crisis in East Africa is a reminder of how many people are suffering in our deeply unequal world and of the consequences of deadly climate inequality."

Hanna Nelson, Head of Policy, Oxfam Sweden

"Sweden and other donor countries must take responsibility for contributing to this crisis and act to address one of the greatest climate injustices and humanitarian disasters of our time."

Hanna Nelson, Head of Policy, Oxfam Sweden

The drought caused by climate change and ongoing conflicts are forcing people to leave their homes. Added to this, the high cost of living has eroded people's ultimate ability to survive, with many unable to afford basic necessities such as food and water.

"Millions of people in East Africa have been forced to leave their homes in search of water, food and jobs. Every day, they face impossible choices: to feed their children or buy medicine for them, to sell their last possessions to put food on the table, or to keep the animal in the hope that it can get enough feed and allow the family not to lose its last most precious asset."

Fati N'zi Hassane, Director of Oxfam in Africa

"An entire generation will live with the long-term consequences of malnutrition, stunted growth, disease and closed schools."

Fati N'zi Hassane, Director of Oxfam in Africa

New evidence from a group of climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution shows that without the human-driven climate crisis the world faces today, the likelihood of the current historic drought that continues to increase hunger in the Horn of Africa would have been about 100 times less. Sweden emits 8 tons of CO2 per person per year, up to 80 times higher than East Africa does. They are suffering the consequences of a climate emergency not of their own making.

"Oxfam calls on Sweden and other donor countries to immediately provide sufficient humanitarian aid for the emergency response that is now needed. At the same time, long-term aid is needed to prevent this type of disaster in the future. The situation we are now seeing also reminds us of Sweden's responsibility to live up to its climate promises and do its part to slow down the climate crisis."

Hanna Nelson, Head of Policy, Oxfam Sweden

The hunger crisis in East Africa

> The number of people experiencing extreme hunger in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan) has more than doubled - from over 17.7 million in November 2021 to more than 31.5 million today. This is against a backdrop of crippling debt that has more than tripled in less than a decade - USD 71 billion - depleting countries' resources for public services and social protection (see Oxfam's regional report here).

> Oxfam is currently supporting people in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia by providing clean water and rapid and flexible cash assistance, matched with long-term support to help communities become more resilient to climate change. Oxfam aims to reach 876,000 of the most affected people in the first quarter of 2024.

Definitions

According to UN World Food Program a famine is defined as a situation where 20% of households experience an extreme shortage of food, 30% of children suffer from acute malnutrition, and 2 people in 10,000 die from malnutrition and disease.

Hunger is defined by the UN as those periods when people experience severe food insecurity - meaning they go whole days without eating due to lack of money, access to food or other resources.