East Africa faces a humanitarian disaster – but it’s not too late to act

The heatwave that impacted several parts of the UK recently was a stark reminder to many that climate change is warming the world and creating, in some countries, huge problems.

In Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, communities are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years with four consecutive failed rainy seasons, causing a hunger crisis for millions of vulnerable people. According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 18.4m people across the three countries are missing meals. 

Yitna Tekaligne, Country Director for Christian Aid Ethiopia, warns “millions are taking desperate measures to survive in the face of failed harvests, livestock deaths, water shortages and extreme hunger.” 

He adds: “The severe conditions are being made worse by the climate crisis, covid and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has caused global food prices to rocket. A tough situation has now turned into a dire crisis.”

In response to this crisis, Christian Aid has just launched an emergency appeal for East Africa.  Rather than a Harvest moment this year, Christian Aid wants to give immediate focus on this humanitarian crisis escalating in East Africa.

The charity is working through local partners to respond in Ethiopia and Kenya. Together they are helping over 300,000 people by repairing wells, distributing water purification kits, providing cash support, and trucking water to drought affected communities as well as providing fodder and medicine to keep valuable livestock alive.  

One of many people Christian Aid is supporting is Adoko Hatoro Engang. He is 76 and living in an internally displaced person camp in South Omo, Ethiopia, with his two wives and fifteen children. Recurrent drought and flooding, due to the climate crisis, has destroyed his farmland and depleted his livestock, causing hunger for his family. 

“I remember when I was young, the rains would follow the drought season, and flooding devastated everything”, Adoko Hatoro Engang explains. He adds: “If I am able, I eat once a day. We only share very small amounts of food we cook, using the money Christian Aid gave us.” 

With money raised from the appeal, Christian Aid hopes to help many more people like Adoko. It is also calling for the UK Government to speed up the delivery of funding that has already been promised to the region.

Karimi Kinoti, who is based in Kenya and is Christian Aid’s interim Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Director, says, “The response to humanitarian needs in Ukraine has been remarkable. The UK Government must now live up to its moral responsibility and urgently act in that same spirit for East Africa. Every day that we delay will make it more difficult to avoid tragedy.  

“Ministers must speed up the delivery of funding that has already been promised, reverse cuts to international aid and ensure all humanitarian and development funding supports local actors who are best placed to respond quickly. 

“Longer term, we must tackle the impact of the climate crisis on global hunger by delivering on climate finance promises, including new money for loss and damage. By taking these steps, we ensure this crisis does not deteriorate into a catastrophe.” 

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Christian Aid are launching this emergency appeal in place of our traditional Harvest Appeal. Harvest is a beautiful time to celebrate God’s gifts, the food we have grown and the wonderful things we have to eat. But it also brings home the need for the church to remember our global neighbours in East Africa, millions of whom are unable to grow crops as the climate crisis rages on and are taking desperate measures to survive extreme hunger.