Nairobi. Oxfam has launched its largest ever appeal in Africa in response to a massive food crisis facing over 12 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
The agency needs about $80 million to reach 3 million people in dire need of clean water, food and basic sanitation.
“The aid effort faces enormous hurdles. There is not enough money to buy food in the quantities required and the price of maize has risen by up to 40 per cent since a year ago in the region. The cost of fuel needed to transport food to the epicentre has also shot up,” Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director, said in a statement.
The epicentre of the drought has hit the poorest people in the region in an area straddling the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia whereby families heavily rely on livestock for survival. In some areas, up to 60 per cent of their herds have already died while the remainder is either sick or dangerously underweight. The price of animals has also plummeted by half while the cost of cereals has soared.
In Somalia the price of a main staple sorghum has risen by a massive 240 per cent since this time last year.
“This is the worst food crisis of the 21st century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost. Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival. People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months, we need funds to help us reach people with life-saving food and water.”
Malnutrition rates in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are alarming and well above emergency levels and in some places, five times higher than crisis threshold. In Dolo Ado, a camp in southern Ethiopia for Somali refugees, malnutrition rates is the highest recorded in the region.
In Kenya, Oxfam aims to help 1.3 million people with clean water, cash initiatives and veterinary support for people’s livestock.
In Somalia, it will expand its work in clean water, promotion of hygiene and veterinary drugs to support three quarters of a million people. In Ethiopia, the agency aims to reach approximately one million people with clean water, basic sanitation and veterinary support.
“This is a preventable disaster and solutions are possible. It’s no coincidence that the worst affected areas are the poorest and least developed in the region. More needs to be done to make sure communities are more resilient to increasingly frequent crises in the future.”
Meanwhile, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has called for collective action to tackle East Africa’s food crisis, urging investment in agriculture to increase food production.
IFAD is a specialized UN agency that works with smallholder farmers. The rise of severe weather such as droughts and flash flooding makes their lives increasingly risky.
In a statement, the IFAD Regional Economist for East and Southern Africa Geoffrey Livingston said, “We need to act now and step up investment in agriculture and smallholder farmers if we want to prevent a major food crisis.”
Livingston noted that prolonged drought across East Africa is threatening the lives of an estimated 10 million people, saying that the effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent in countries like Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya where IFAD works.
Pastoralists cannot find land to feed their cattle, crops do not have enough water to grow, and poor harvests raise the already high food prices, leaving men, women and children hungry and malnourished.
In East Africa, IFAD said 237 million people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods but are cultivating soils which are becoming progressively less productive, due to nutrient loss from erosion and leaching.
“It was recently reported that 3.2 million Ethiopians depend on food aid. We need to enable them to rely on sustainable agriculture and smallholder farming to feed themselves and their communities.”
“With the necessary support they can not only be key agents of economic growth and food security, but also can become key contributors to better management and preservation of an increasingly scarce natural resource base in the context of a changing climate.” (Xinhua)