NAIROBI – Almost a month into the current rainy season, desperately needed rains across the Horn of Africa have so far failed to materialize. If these conditions continue, the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

With Somalia facing the risk of famine, half a million Kenyans one step away from catastrophic levels of hunger and malnutrition rates in Ethiopia well above emergency thresholds, time is fast running out for families who are struggling to survive.

“We know from past experience that acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is vital, yet our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” said Michael Dunford, U.N. World Food Programme’s regional director for Eastern Africa. “The U.N. World Food Programme and other humanitarian agencies have been warning the international community since last year that this drought could be disastrous if we didn’t act immediately, but funding has failed to materialize at the scale required.”

The situation has been compounded by the fallout of conflict in Ukraine, with the cost of food and fuel soaring to unprecedented highs. Drought-affected countries across the Horn of Africa are likely to be the hardest hit by impacts of the conflict – the cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66%) and Somalia (36%) which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries. The disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January 2022.

During the 2016/17 drought in the Horn of Africa, catastrophe was avoided through early action. Humanitarian assistance was scaled up before there was widespread hunger. In 2022, due to a severe lack of resourcing, there are growing fears that it won’t be possible to prevent the looming disaster – and millions will suffer as a result.

The U.N. World Food Programme last appealed for desperately needed funding in February, yet less than 4% of what was needed was raised. Over the next six months, the U.N. World Food Programme needs $473 million to scale-up assistance and save lives across the three countries – Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

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In Ethiopia crops have failed, over a million livestock have died and an estimated 7.2 million people wake up hungry every day in southern and southeastern Ethiopia as the country grapples with the most severe drought since 1981. The U.N. World Food Programme is on the ground, aiming to support 3.5 million people with emergency food and nutrition assistance, school feeding programs as well as climate change adaptation and resilience building activities. Immediate and scaled-up assistance is critical to avoid a major humanitarian crisis in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks. The U.N. World Food Programme urgently requires $239 million over the next six months to respond to the drought in southern Ethiopia.

In Kenya, the number of people in need of assistance has risen more than fourfold in less than two years. According to the Short Rains Assessment, the rapidly escalating drought has left 3.1 million people acutely hungry (IPC3 and above), including half a million Kenyans who are facing emergency levels of hunger (IPC4). The U.N. World Food Programme urgently requires $42 million over the next six months to meet the needs of the most critically affected communities in northern and eastern parts of the country.

In Somalia, some 6 million people (40% of the population) are facing acute hunger (IPC3 or above) and, alarmingly, there is a very real risk of famine in the coming months if the rains don’t arrive and humanitarian assistance isn’t received. The U.N. World Food Programme is scaling up emergency food and nutrition assistance to support 3 million people by the middle of this year. However, a $192 million relief funding gap over the next six months means that the U.N. World Food Programme has less than half of what it needs to keep scaling up. As a result, the U.N. World Food Programme is having to prioritize both nutrition (where treatment has taken precedence over prevention) and food assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme has launched its largest anticipatory action intervention so far in Africa, equipping vulnerable Somali households in drought hotspots with additional cash transfers and a public information campaign to help them withstand the impact of a potential fourth failed rainy season. The U.N. World Food Programme is also continuing livelihoods, resilience and food systems programs to protect recent development gains and support vulnerable Somalis against droughts and other crises in the long term.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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Nairobi – The Horn of Africa is experiencing the driest conditions recorded since 1981, with severe drought leaving an estimated 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia facing severe hunger in the first quarter of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated crops and caused abnormally high livestock deaths. Shortages of water and pasture are forcing families from their homes and leading to increased conflict between communities. Further forecasts of below-average rainfall are threatening to worsen and compound dire conditions in the coming months.

“Harvests are ruined, livestock are dying and hunger is growing as recurrent droughts affect the Horn of Africa,” said Michael Dunford, regional director in the U.N. World Food Programme Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa. “The situation requires immediate humanitarian action and consistent support to build the resilience of communities for the future.”

The drought has impacted pastoral and farmer populations across southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, south-eastern and northern Kenya and south-central Somalia. The impacts are compounded by increases in staple food prices, inflation and low demand for agricultural labour, further worsening families’ ability to buy food. Malnutrition rates also remain high across the region and could worsen if no immediate action is taken.

Across the three drought-affected countries, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing lifesaving food and nutrition assistance to affected communities. Additionally, U.N. World Food Programme cash grants and insurance schemes are helping families buy food to keep their livestock alive or compensating them for their losses.

As needs across the Horn of Africa grow, immediate assistance is critical to avoid a major humanitarian crisis, like the one the world witnessed in 2011 when 250,000 people died of hunger in Somalia. This week the U.N. World Food Programme launches its Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa, calling for $327 million to respond to immediate needs of 4.5 million people over the next six months and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks.

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“With the drought, the livestock we have are in danger. Our livelihood depends on them, so we are doing everything we can to keep them healthy. Every morning we lead our cattle to graze at a pasture far away, but even that area is drying up,” said Elamu, a mother of seven in Ethiopia who is impacted by drought.

The U.N. World Food Programme is supporting Elamu with cash transfers through the anticipatory action initiative. After providing Elamu and others crucial information about the upcoming drought, the U.N. World Food Programme provided Elamu $42 each month to help her ready her livestock for the impacts from drought. Elamu is one of almost 3,000 pastoralist households who are receiving cash transfers and one of 16,000 receiving early warning messages from the U.N. World Food Programme to help manage the drought in Ethiopia’s Somali Region.

In Ethiopia, an estimated 5.7 million people affected by severe drought need food assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme aims to support 2.9 million people with food relief in the Somali Region, 585,000 malnourished children and mothers with nutrition treatment, and 80,000 households with mothers or young children with preventative treatment against malnutrition. This emergency response will be complemented by expanding microinsurance support for up to 18,000 at-risk pastoralists. The U.N. World Food Programme is also seeking to add 50,000 children to its school meals program, which currently reaches 87,000 children across 254 schools in other drought affected regions of Oromia and SNNP.

In Kenya, the government declared the drought a national emergency in September 2021 and an estimated 2.8 million people are in need of assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme aims to provide urgent food assistance to more than 890,000 people in the worst affected counties as well as scale up malnutrition treatment and prevention programs for women and children. The U.N. World Food Programme will also extend microinsurance support for small-scale farmers.

In Somalia, the number of acutely food insecure people (IPC 3+) is expected to increase from 3.5 to 4.6 million between February-May 2022 if humanitarian assistance is not received. The U.N. World Food Programme is aiming to scale up its food assistance to support an additional 600,000 people in the first half of this year, reaching a total of almost 2.5 million. To help prevent and treat the implications of drought, the U.N. World Food Programme will also provide nutrition support to women and children. The U.N. World Food Programme is also continuing livelihoods, resilience and food systems programs to protect recent development gains and strengthen vulnerable Somalis against droughts and other crises in the long term.

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Olympic medalist Paul Tergat grew up as one of 17 children in a family that struggled daily with hunger. Thanks to his persistence and the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) school meals program, he conquered hunger and changed his life.

Growing up in northern Kenya, Paul Tergat and his family often lacked enough food for just one simple meal a day. 

As a result, he rarely attended school. He just didn’t have the energy to make the three-mile journey there from his home in the drought-prone Baringo district. When he did find his way there, it was difficult for him to concentrate in the classroom on an empty stomach.

But in 1977, Paul’s life changed forever. WFP began distributing school meals in his district. School meals help to improve children’s nutrition, ability to learn and life chances while giving poor families an incentive to send their children to school. 

The promise of these meals encouraged Paul, then only eight years old, to go to class at the Riwo Primary School. In fact, thanks to the nutrition provided by WFP’s school meals, Paul would eventually work up the strength and energy to run the three-mile route. Every day he ran, becoming faster and stronger with each subsequent trek. 

“There was no food if I would stay at home,” Tergat said. “It was an incentive for me to go to school because there was a meal in school.”

Those runs proved to be remarkably significant later in life, a precursor to an incredible change of fate. Ten years later, Paul won two Olympic silver medals for the 10,000-meter competition — one in 1996 and one in 2000. 

In 2003, he set the marathon world record at the Berlin Marathon. Two years later, he won the New York City Marathon in the closest finish in the race’s history.

As a school meals recipient and one of the fastest long-distance runners of all time, Paul credits WFP for instilling in him the drive and potential to become a champion runner. Since 2004, Paul has served as a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, traveling the globe to share his inspiring story with children in the world’s poorest classrooms and to raise support for the U.N. agency that shaped his destiny.

“There are children in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, who may not be able to have education,” Tergat says. “But they can be champions too.”

Watch this video of Paul Tergat talk about how a simple idea and vision helped change the world for him and children across the globe. 


JUBA – For the first time since 2018, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has managed to send a humanitarian convoy from Kenya directly into South Sudan via the Nadapal Border crossing just as hunger is peaking in the country.

The nine-truck convoy, carrying 280 metric tons of food– enough to feed 20,000 people for a month—was loaded in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa and took three days to reach Kapoeta, east of South Sudan’s capital Juba. The U.N. World Food Programme had delivered millions of tons of relief cargo through the route before humanitarian deliveries were discontinued because of poor road conditions and insecurity.

“Our backs are against the wall and time is of the essence,” says Matthew Hollingworth, U.N. World Food Programme Country Director in South Sudan. “The effectiveness of our response will very much depend on how soon we get supplies into the country and move them to where they are needed the most.”

The re-opening of the route cuts travel times by half and will help speed up getting essential cargo into hard-hit areas of South Sudan before most roads close with the onset of the rainy season.

“We need to keep both humanitarian and commercial cargo flowing if we are to stand a chance to reduce the threat posed by a deadly combination of hunger and COVID-19,” adds Hollingworth.

South Sudan is reeling from multiple crises, not least the COVID-19 pandemic and an invasion of desert locusts in Equatoria state. Food security and livelihoods were already under severe threat in South Sudan before COVID-19.

More than 6.5 million people—half the country’s population—are expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the hunger season in July. The virus, desert locust invasions and renewed violence in parts of the country will exacerbate food needs. An additional 1.5 million people are expected to require food assistance.

While South Sudan’s borders have remained open for cargo, allowing the United Nations to continue bringing in food, medical and other essential supplies, restrictions and lengthy delays at some border crossings are now threatening food security as cross-border trade has slowed down.

In view of the risk of spreading the virus when people move, the U.N. World Food Programme – in conjunction with health and transport authorities – is establishing COVID-19 testing facilities at the border post to screen for COVID-19 among truck drivers and other workers.

The U.N. World Food Programme imports an average of 325,000 metric tons of food annually into South Sudan to cover food gaps and complement locally grown foods. While some food is purchased in the country, the bulk is imported by road through three main corridors in the South, West and North of the country.

The southern corridor, from Mombasa and through Kenya and Uganda, remains a key artery both for the country’s economy and WFP’s response, accounting for half of South Sudan’s imports.

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The U.N. World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @wfp_SouthSudan, @wfp_africa, @WFPUSA

For more information please contact (email address:

  • Tomson Phiri, WFP/South Sudan, Mob. +211 922 465 247
  • Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi, Tel. + 254 20 7622 179, Mob. +254 707 722 104

NAIROBI – The dire socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may more than double the number of hungry people in East Africa and the Horn over the next three months, a report from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has found.

The most vulnerable and at risk are poor urban communities living hand-to-mouth in informal settlements, and millions of refugees located in densely populated camps across the region.

An estimated 20 million people already faced acute food insecurity in nine countries before COVID-19 arrived in East Africa and the Horn, with numerous food crises, a massive outbreak of desert locusts and extensive flooding threatening millions across the region, which includes Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea.

WFP projects that the number of acutely food insecure people is likely to increase to between 34 and 43 million from May through July due to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. If the number of hungry reaches 43 million, it would have more than doubled. Among the hungry may be 3.3 million refugees spread across the nine countries.

“A shortage of funding already means most refugees in the region are not receiving all the food they need, and they could face further cuts as scarce resources become even more over-stretched,” said UNHCR Regional Director Clementine Nkweta Salami.

“High levels of malnutrition in densely populated camps and settlements make refugees particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak,” she added. “Some refugees also live in urban areas, often in the poorest informal settlements, representing a significant proportion of the urban poor in many countries in the region.”

“COVID-19 is unprecedented as it affects not just one country or region, but the whole world. It is not just a supply side problem, such as drought, or a demand side issue such as a recession – it is both at the same time and on a global scale,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director Brenda Behan.

“More people are expected to die from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself,” she said. “And refugees and the urban poor across the region are at greatest risk.”

Some half of the urban population in the region lives in informal urban settlements or slums, with 25 million people living hand-to-mouth each day. Millions have already lost their jobs as economies falter amid lockdowns and curfews to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Governments and humanitarian organizations are scrambling to address the loss of food security for many families in urban areas, or risk the destabilizing effects of urban unrest.

WFP has a funding shortfall of $103 million to provide full food rations or full cash transfers to more than 3 million refugees in the nine countries in the region through September.

With governments in the region imposing restrictions delaying cross-border trade because of fears that truck drivers are spreading COVID-19, WFP calls for cooperation to keep both commercial and humanitarian goods flowing so people receive the right food at the right time.

COVID-19 is spreading across the region at the same time as fears are increasing that new swarms of desert locusts, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and near Somalia may eat newly planted crops ahead of the main harvest from July to September. Floods during the current long rains are another additional threat to people and food supplies in much of the region.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFP_Africa @WFPUSA

A link to the WFP report is here:

For more information please contact (email address:

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi Tel. + 254 20 7622179, Mob. +254 707 722104

Joint statement by QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Mark Lowcock, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; and David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

East Africa is a region beset by climate- and conflict-related shocks. Millions of people are already acutely food insecure. Now they face another major hunger threat in the form of desert locusts.

The locust upsurge affecting East Africa is a graphic and shocking reminder of this region’s vulnerability. This is a scourge of biblical proportions. Yet as ancient as this scourge is, its scale today is unprecedented in modern times.

On January 20th, FAO called for $76 million to help combat this pest crisis. But the resources to control the outbreak have been too slow in coming.

Since FAO launched its first appeal to help what was then three affected countries, the locust swarms have moved rapidly across vast distances and the full extent of their massive scale has become clear. Since our last op-ed pleading for action on February 12th, swarms have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Each day, more countries are affected. Last week, a swarm crossed into one of Africa’s most food-insecure and fragile countries, South Sudan. Just this week, it was confirmed that one swarm reached the eastern boundaries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a country that has not seen a locust incursion since 1944. Needless to say, the potential impact of locusts on a country still grappling with complex conflict, Ebola and measles outbreaks, high levels of displacement, and chronic food insecurity would be devastating.

As the locusts continue their invasion throughout eastern Africa, and more details emerge about the scale of need in affected areas, the cost of action has already doubled to $138 million. FAO urgently needs this money to help Governments control these devastating pests, especially in the next four months.

This funding will ensure that activities to control the locusts can take place before new swarms emerge. It will also provide help for people whose crops or pastures are already affected, to protect their families and their livelihoods.

Desert locusts have a reproduction cycle of three months. Today, mature swarms are laying eggs within vast areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, many of which are already hatching. In just a few weeks, the next generation of the pests will transition from their juvenile stage and take wing in a renewed frenzy of destructive swarm activity. This will be just as farmers’ crops begin to sprout.

The next wave of locusts could devastate East Africa’s most important crop of the year, right when it is at its most vulnerable.

But that doesn’t have to happen. The window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now.

Anticipatory action to control and contain the locusts before the new swarms take flight and farmers crops first break soil is critical. At the same time, FAO needs more resources to immediately begin boosting the resilience of affected communities so they can better withstand some inevitable shocks. Acting now to avert a food crisis is a more humane, effective and cost-efficient approach than responding to the aftermath of disaster.

We welcome the response so far from many international donors. To date, $33 million has been received or committed. But the funding gaps are clear, and needs are growing too rapidly. We need to do more. WFP has estimated the cost of responding to the impact of locusts on food security alone to be at least 15 times higher than the cost of preventing the spread now.

It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more later.

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The United Nations World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

Stay up to date @WFPUSA

NAIROBI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began on Saturday airlifting Government of Kenya relief food and supplies to areas cut off by widespread flooding.

In response to a formal request by the Government, WFP deployed an Mi-8 helicopter to deliver life-saving assistance to families in parts of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Tana River counties.

“While we have allocated relief supplies to meet the needs of families affected by flooding, we face a serious challenge in delivering them because of access constraints,” said Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Devolution and Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).

“We have therefore requested WFP to mobilize a high-capacity helicopter to enable us to continue with relief activities.”

Since the start of the short rains in early October, floods have destroyed bridges and cut off  major roads, especially in the Northeast, paralyzing transport. The Kenya Meteorological Department says the rains in arid and semi-arid regions are so far two to three times above normal and are forecast to peak in mid-November.

“The Government of Kenya is taking a strong lead in reaching people whose lives have been affected by the floods,” said WFP Country Director and Representative Annalisa Conte. “WFP can draw on its global capacity to mobilize aviation services to support Government relief efforts and ensure the timely delivery of life-saving support.”

Over the years, WFP has worked very closely with the Ministry of Devolution and ASALs in monitoring the impact of disasters such as droughts and flooding and alleviating the suffering caused by them. The Government says the floods have led to the loss of 38 lives, displaced 11,700 families and killed more than 10,000 animals.

The WFP flood response is part of the overall UN Resident Coordinator’s emergency response.

The United Nations World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @WFP_Africa

For more information please contact:

Penina Kihika, Ministry of Devolution and ASALs, Mob. +254 722 628255

Martin Karimi, WFP/Nairobi | Tel. +254 20 7622310, Mob. +254 707 722161

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi | Tel. + 254 20 7622179, Mob. +254 707 722104


The war in Ukraine is exacerbating hunger worldwide, including in South Sudan where extreme weather, high food prices and violence are driving millions into hunger. We URGENTLY need your support to scale up and send food today.


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