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The East Africa food crisis was not inevitable and solutions exist

The drought in East Africa is an urgent humanitarian crisis, but one which also highlights the underlying problems people face in having sustainable and affordable access to food.

It was well known that failing rains would affect farmers, pastoralists and other communities, yet governments haven’t done enough to protect them. Now their lives and livelihoods are being devastated.

Northeast Kenya. Photo: Anna Ridout/Oxfam
Northeast Kenya

Those at risk of going hungry haven’t received the help they need through this difficult time, and plans made to protect them were not good enough. Harvests have failed, livestock numbers have depleted and the price of food has risen beyond the reach of many.

But the food crisis in East Africa was not inevitable and the solutions exist to ensure that crises on this scale are avoided. The crisis must be a wakeup call to governments and the international community to address the issues that make people vulnerable to hunger in the first place.

We must plan for the future now. This includes investing in small scale food producers (both pastoralists and farmers), protecting their rights to land and other natural resources, and crucially providing them with the support they need to cope with a changing climate, price rises and other shocks. Communities must have a say in the decisions that affect them, and better support must be put in place to protect vulnerable people. It’s no coincidence that the worst affected by this crisis are those who have been most neglected.

Oxfam is calling for a transformation in the way we grow and share food so that everyone always has enough to eat now, and always. In a world with enough to eat there is no good reason why anyone should go hungry. The problem we need to overcome is the way we grow and share food.

Oxfam is working in the areas affected by the East Africa food crisis right now. Responding to the crisis and saving lives now is vital and you can support it by donating to our appeal.

Also, you can help to ensure that more is done to address the root causes of crises like this by joining Oxfam’s global movement of people uniting to fix our broken food system. Be part of it.

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Written by Ed Pomfret

Ed Pomfret

Ed Pomfret is head of the GROW campaign which aims to fix the broken food system, focusing on land rights, climate change and agriculture. He has worked at Oxfam for over seven years: as campaign manager on conflict and humanitarian issues, regional campaigns and policy manager for the Horn East & Central Africa, and campaigns & policy manager for Oxfam Somalia. He specialises in working with communities in countries to overcome poverty. Before Oxfam he worked on environmental issues, campaigning on ancient forest destruction and climate change for a decade. At Oxfam he worked on many of the major humanitarian crises of our time in DRC, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Haiti earthquake, major Pakistan floods, and food crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel, before moving back into the environment and development field as head of Oxfam's GROW campaign.

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