Fight to Prevent Perpetual Food Crises in Eastern Africa Continues

Leading global and regional institutions have just released the 2018 Global Report on Food Crises. The Report raised concerns over the deepening food insecurity situations across many parts of the world, the most pressing remaining to be Africa.

The Report reminded us that the number of food-insecure people in 2017 has reached almost 124 million, an eleven million increase from 2016, two-thirds of which were in Africa (almost 32 million people).

The Report classified the Eastern African countries, except Rwanda, as the worst spots, where a significant number of their population was suffering from acute food shortage. In these countries, series of droughts and conflicts damaged already strained livelihoods, destroyed crops and pushed up food prices.

Renewed conflict in South Sudan has deepened the humanitarian crisis, disrupting agricultural production and crippling the economy. Nearly 6.1 million – 50pc of the population – are currently severely food insecure. Women and children are the most vulnerable, facing risks of violence, hunger and life-threatening diseases.

Somalia has been plagued by violence and conflict for long and is now experiencing the worst drought in history. Almost 3.3 million – 27pc of its population – need humanitarian assistance due to large-scale displacement, caused by conflicts and harsh climate conditions.

In Ethiopia, the food security situation was deteriorated in 2017. Following poor performing of the spring rains and deepening drought conditions in the pastoralist and agro-pastoralist regions, the number of people who suffer from acute food shortage reached 8.5 million.

Food security in Kenya declined significantly in 2017, mainly because of below-average long and short rain crop production in 2016. In July last year, 2.6 million people (19pc of the population) were requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. The number increased to an estimated 3.4 million from August to October 2017 as the dry spell persisted.

The case in Uganda did not show a different image from its neighbouring countries. Compared to 2015 and 2016, food security depreciated in 2017, with 1.59 million people in the acute stage and an additional 9.28 million people experiencing significant food shortage. Below-average crop and livestock productions, as well as high volume of refugee inflows and high food prices, have played a major role for such encounters.

The food security situation in Burundi and Djibouti was not also that heartening. In Burundi, the situation deteriorated in 2017 compared with previous years. At the height of the lean season in April and May, the number of people estimated to be in crisis conditions or worse was almost 2.6 million (26pc of the rural population), of whom 700,000 faced emergency conditions. The pastoralist areas of Djibouti was also heavily affected by food shortage. Between November 2016 and May 2017, 130,000 people were facing emergency conditions in rural areas – representing 46pc of the rural population.

Looking forward, the Report warned that Eastern Africa countries would continue to experience high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Frequent droughts and extreme weather events, coupled with conflicts would pose serious food security and nutrition challenges at national, sub-national and community levels.

Extreme climate events like drought undermine rural livelihoods and erode rural people’s capacity to cope with the next shock. They exacerbate poverty linked to decades of chronic underinvestment, can fuel up conflicts over access to and use of natural resources. Due to heavy reliance on rainfed agriculture, most rural communities in the subregion suffer from the impacts of recurrent droughts and seasonal rain failures leading to loss of valuable livelihood assets (crops and livestock) and high level of population movement.

Resource-based conflicts, demographic pressure and youth unemployment issues would continue to worsen the impacts of droughts, often resulting in famine situations. Approximately 80pc of humanitarian appeals are conflict-related and most of these conflicts are protracted.

In countries with a protracted crisis, the proportion of people who are undernourished is almost three times higher than in other developing countries. Conflict easily reverses development gains and has direct effects on rural communities, especially where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognizes that droughts and conflicts need to be addressed in an integrated manner; as they continue to pose a serious threat to food security. As the Report underscored, no significant improvement in food security can be expected until peace is achieved and livelihoods restored.

At FAO, the fight against hunger is core to achieving peace and security. On the other side, pursuing peace and conflict resolution has great potential to secure development gains and leverage progress towards food security.

In light of this, FAO works with partners to catalyse a multi-stakeholder consultation for sustainable solutions on drought, climate change and conflict-induced food and nutrition insecurity in Africa. FAO also supports governments and communities to prepare evidence-based plans, resilience analyses and actions. This, in turn, leads to sustainable livelihoods-based interventions, which are vital to save lives, build resilience and contribute to sustainable peace.


By Patrick Kormawa
Patrick Kormawa (PhD) is the FAO Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa Region.

Published on Apr 21,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 938]



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