NAIROBI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is expanding assistance in the Horn of Africa as levels of hunger soar after back-to-back droughts and the threat of famine looms. Since the start of the year, 9 million more people have slipped into severe hunger across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – leaving 22 million people struggling to find enough food to eat.
U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley on Thursday wrapped up a visit to drought-ravaged Somalia, where over 7 million people (close to half the population) are severely hungry and 213,000 are already facing famine-like conditions. Beasley visited the southern city of Baardheere and met families, including malnourished children and their mothers, who have been forced to leave their homes and travel long distances through conflict-wracked areas in search of humanitarian assistance.
“People here have been waiting years for rain – but they cannot wait any longer for lifesaving food assistance. The world needs to act now to protect the most vulnerable communities from the threat of widespread famine in the Horn of Africa,” said Beasley. “There is still no end in sight to this drought crisis, so we must get the resources needed to save lives and stop people plunging into catastrophic levels of hunger and starvation.”
The U.N. World Food Programme is tripling the number of people reached with lifesaving food assistance in the Baardheere area, which hosts tens of thousands of people driven from their homes by drought and conflict.
Across the Horn of Africa, the drought is expected to continue in coming months with a fifth poor rainy season forecast later this year. The U.N. World Food Programme has focused available funds, including critical emergency funding from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, on scaling up lifesaving assistance in areas worst hit by the drought. The U.N. World Food Programme is targeting 8.5 million people across the Horn of Africa, up from 6.3 million at the start of the year.
Across the three drought-affected countries, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing food and cash assistance to families and distributing fortified foods to women and young children to treat spiraling rates of malnutrition and prevent more people among some of the most vulnerable communities slipping closer towards famine. U.N. World Food Programme cash grants and insurance schemes are also helping families to buy food to keep livestock alive or to compensate them when their animals die.
At the start of the year, the U.N. World Food Programme warned that 13 million people in the Horn of Africa were facing severe hunger due to the drought. By mid-year, with the fourth consecutive failure of rains, that number increased to 20 million. Now, the number is projected to rise again to at least 22 million by September. This number will continue to climb, and the severity of hunger will deepen if the next rainy season (October to December) fails and the most people do not receive humanitarian relief. Needs will remain high into 2023 and famine is now a serious risk, particularly in Somalia.
Across the Horn of Africa, livestock are dying and there are acute shortages of water and food. So far 1.1 million people have been forced from their homes by the drought, ending up in crowded camps where the humanitarian community is struggling to keep pace with the demand for food, shelter, and healthcare.
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, saving lives and averting a devastating famine. The U.N. World Food Programme is doing everything possible to support those most in need, but with no end in sight to this drought, some $418 million is urgently needed over the next six months to meet these increasing needs.
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In Ethiopia, the U.N. World Food Programme aims to provide food and cash relief assistance to 3.3 million people in the drought-hit Somali Region (59% of the population) but is currently only able to reach 2.4 million due to funding shortages. The U.N. World Food Programme’s malnutrition treatment programs are targeting almost 850,000 women and children in drought-affected areas. The U.N. World Food Programme’s first humanitarian shipment of grain from Ukraine is on route to Ethiopia, where it will go towards feeding 1.53 million people for a month.
In Kenya, the U.N. World Food Programme is rapidly scaling up to reach 535,000 drought-affected people by the end of August – up from 108,000 reached in the first half of 2022. The U.N. World Food Programme is also expanding its malnutrition treatment programs to reach 210,000 malnourished children and 105,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in 15 drought-affected counties – up from 8 counties.
In Somalia, the U.N. World Food Programme is continuing to scale up emergency food support to reach 4.5 million people in the coming months. In July, the U.N. World Food Programme reached a record 3.7 million people with lifesaving food assistance, the highest ever reached in a single month, and a significant increase from 1.7 million people supported in April. The U.N. World Food Programme has also nearly doubled targets for its malnutrition treatment program, aiming to provide 444,000 young children and mothers with nutrition support.
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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.
Yesterday, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Tracey Mann (R-KS) introduced H. Res. 1156 commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, a unique program leveraging the strength of American farmers to fight childhood hunger worldwide.
“World Food Program USA thanks Congress for recognizing this remarkable program and for the foresight 20 years ago to bring it into fruition,” said Barron Segar, President and CEO, World Food Program USA. “The McGovern-Dole program is a shining example of America’s commitment to ending hunger in all its forms and is central to this country’s ongoing legacy of leadership on issues related to global hunger.”
World Food Program USA has a long history with the McGovern-Dole program, with the original legislation put forward by World Food Program USA Board Members Senators George McGovern (D-SD) and Bob Dole (R-KS). In 2008, the Senators were made World Food Prize laureates for their efforts.
The United States is the largest donor to the United Nations World Food Programme’s school meals program, provided primarily through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program. School meals are a critical component in breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty, increasing school enrollment, reducing the number of school dropouts (especially among girls), and improving the overall health of children.
Originally authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, the McGovern-Dole program has successfully improved the food security and nutrition of millions of children in low-income, food-deficit countries around the world in part through donations of US commodities. Since its inception, it has provided school meals to more than 40 million children in 40 of the world’s lowest-income countries, several of which face near-famine conditions.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 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.
World Food Program USA, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, DC, proudly supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme by mobilizing American policymakers, businesses and individuals to advance the global movement to end hunger. Our leadership and support help to bolster an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world. To learn more about World Food Program USA’s mission, please visit wfpusa.org/mission-history.
Hunger and malnutrition worsen across Somalia as risk of famine increases amid historic fourth failed rainy season.
Mogadishu – A historic fourth consecutive failed rainy season, skyrocketing prices and an underfunded humanitarian response have resulted in a 160% increase in people facing catastrophic levels of hunger, starvation and disease in Somalia. With no end in sight for the devastating drought affecting the country, the risk of famine looms larger than ever. An urgent increase in support from the international community is essential to avert famine.
A new report from the Famine Early Warning Network and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), based on a rapid assessment by multiple United Nations agencies, shows that 7.1 million Somalis (close to 50% of the population) now face crisis-level hunger or worse through at least September 2022. Of those, 213,000 people face catastrophic hunger and starvation, a drastic increase from the 81,000 forecast in April. More areas are at risk of famine, particularly in the south of the country in regions where insecurity and conflict make humanitarian access more challenging.
These figures reflect a food security situation that is expected to deteriorate rapidly over the coming months. United Nations agencies and partners are now focusing their limited resources on famine prevention to protect the country’s most at risk, as meteorological organizations warn that another below-average rainy season could follow later in the year.
“We are staring at a potential calamity; failure to act now will be tragic for scores of families in Somalia,” said Adam Abdelmoula, deputy special representative of the secretary-general, resident and humanitarian coordinator. “Somalia is in danger of entering an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season, meaning hundreds of thousands of people face the risk of famine. Famine cost the lives of 260,000 Somalis in 2010 – 2011.This cannot be allowed to happen again in 2022. It is urgent that more is done to avert this risk and done now,” he said.
Collectively, humanitarian agencies have reached 2.8 million people between January and April 2022 with lifesaving and livelihood assistance through drought assistance and famine prevention programs, but the new assessment clearly indicates that the scale of assistance currently being delivered and funding from the international community is not yet sufficient to protect those most at risk.
Food prices affecting the most vulnerable
Somali families are increasingly unable to cope with soaring food prices as local food has become scarce due to consecutive seasons of poor or failed domestic production, livestock deaths and imported food prices reaching record levels – in part because of supply chain disruptions due to conflict in Ukraine. In parts of the country, food prices have risen 140 – 160%, leaving poor families hungry and destitute.
“We must act immediately to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. The lives of the most vulnerable are already at risk from malnutrition and hunger, and we cannot wait for a declaration of famine to act,” said El-Khidir Daloum, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)’s country director in Somalia. “It’s a race against time to prevent famine and the U.N. World Food Programme is scaling up as much as possible, prioritizing our limited resources to save those most at risk. But as these new figures show, there is an urgent need for more resources to meet this escalating hunger crisis,” he said.
Around 3 million livestock have died due to the drought since mid-2021, and the decline in meat and milk production has also led to worsening malnutrition, particularly among young children in pastoral areas who are dependent on local supply. As of May 2022, an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of 5 face acute malnutrition through the end of the year, including 386,400 who are likely to be severely malnourished – an increase of 55,000 compared to previous estimates.
The malnutrition crisis is likely to worsen as the nutrition situation deteriorates further in the affected areas, with children and vulnerable people the hardest hit. “This is a child crisis. It’s not only about water or nutrition, but also about children losing education, falling vulnerable to child protection issues and having poor health; all impacting their future,” said Angela Kearney, UNICEF Somalia Representative. UNICEF has supported the treatment of more than 114,000 children with severe acute malnutrition between January and April 2022. “We are treating children but now we need further funding to prevent a famine and protect the future of every Somali child,” she said.
Grim situation as humanitarian funding falls far short
The grim food security situation is unfolding as humanitarian funding from the international community has so far fallen short of coming close to what actors need to avert a famine in the country. The 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is currently only 18% funded. “The support required has not yet fully materialized, and hundreds of thousands of Somalis are at a very real risk of starvation and death,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO’s representative in Somalia.
“It’s a tragedy to see the level of distress that rural communities in particular are experiencing, and we are being limited in what we can do to prevent this extraordinary suffering. We’re calling on the international community to act fast while we still have some hope of preventing collapse of livelihoods, potentially massive population displacement from rural areas to IDP camps and widespread famine in Somalia,” he said.
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French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur, known as the “father of microbiology,” made a number of surprising and world-changing discoveries throughout his career—namely, the principles behind disease prevention, fermentation and pasteurization.
His research uncovered how microorganisms that cause alcohol and milk to spoil could be eliminated by merely boiling the liquid. This remarkable find helped protect household staples like bread, cheese, yogurt, chocolate, eggs, canned foods and even water, as well as the people who need such foods. Safer food brought better nutrition for millions across the world.
We might think that boiling milk and water only prevents people from getting sick, but it does so much more than that. It prevents long-term and deadly disease, like salmonella and E. coli, and has been directly correlated to reduced child mortality.
In fact, poor sanitation is often one of the leading causes of poor nutrition and stunting among children. That’s why the World Food Programme distributes pre-packaged, sanitary foods such as Plumpy’Doz and High-Energy Biscuits and even provides education on good sanitation practices. Together, pasteurization and sanitation improve the shelf life of nutritious food and help save lives.
Smarter research, better fact-finding and more innovation—especially when it comes to food and agriculture—can have a huge impact on global hunger.
As Pasteur once said, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.”