Oxfam today launched its largest ever appeal in Africa in response to a massive food crisis facing more than 12 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The agency needs £50 million to reach 3 million people in dire need of clean water, food and basic sanitation.
“This is the worst food crisis of the 21st Century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director. “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.”
The epicentre of the drought has hit the poorest people in the region in an area straddling the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where families rely heavily on livestock for survival. In some parts of the region, up to 60 percent of their herds have already died while the remainder are either sick or dangerously underweight. The price of animals has 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 percent since this time last year.
Malnutrition rates in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are alarming and well above emergency levels – in some places five times higher than crisis threshold. In Dolo Ado, a camp in southern Ethiopia for Somali refugees, malnutrition rates are the highest recorded in this region since the nineties.
“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 percent since a year ago in the region. The cost of fuel needed to transport food to the epicentre has also shot up,” said Cocking.
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,” said Cocking.