Recurring failed rainy seasons have made it impossible for many East African farmers and herders to keep up their livelihoods. Flash floods during the 2018 rainy season are increasing humanitarian needs in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya.

  • 6 million people in the East African region are displaced due to conflict and drought, making them dependent on aid to meet their needs.
  • Communicable diseases threaten the lives of children. More than 131,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea or cholera were reported in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya during 2017, according to the World Health Organization. Measles outbreaks in Ethiopia and Somalia affected more than 24,000 children.
  • Conflict, hunger, poverty, and displacement create a climate in which children are at risk of violence and exploitation.
  • Help is necessary to keep the Africa hunger and food crises from worsening. Children, especially those younger than 5, are the most vulnerable because they need critical nutrients to build strength and immunity against disease.

While decreasing in some areas, serious food insecurity will be a concern in East Africa in early 2019, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

Why are people in Africa facing chronic hunger?

Recurring drought, conflict, and instability have led to severe food shortages. Many countries have struggled with extreme poverty for decades, so they lack government and community support systems to help their struggling families.

A compressed cycle of recurring drought is plunging the same communities into drought again before they have a chance to recover sufficiently from the last one.

In South Sudan, where people fled their homes because of violence, few farmers have been able to harvest a crop. This limits what is available at community markets and raises food prices. In addition, during the rainy season, 60 percent of the country is inaccessible by roads, which limits transportation of food aid as well as goods sent to market.

From March through May 2018, long rains were 150 to 200 percent above normal in some East Africa locations. This brought some relief to herders as livestock benefit from renewed grasslands. However, in many places flash floods and overflowing rivers wiped out crops, roads, and bridges, thwarting both cultivation and relief activities.

In such conditions, poor families can’t afford enough food to keep their children healthy, and eventually, they need emergency help from government agencies or aid groups when they run out of money and food. We’re not talking low funds or food that’s been in our pantry that’s well past its expiration. We’re talking about not having any money or any food at all — nothing.

The longer these factors persist, the harder it is for families to stave off the effects of lost livelihoods and homes.

Why does it seem like there’s always a hunger crisis in Africa?

Drought, poor harvests, and instability create a cycle that’s extremely difficult to break. And this happens in other regions of the world too.

When instability persists because of conflict or political problems, people flee their homes or are unable to plant their crops. Then less food gets harvested. Prices go up. Families’ livelihood prospects dwindle as markets close. Violent conflict makes situations worse because humanitarian groups often cannot access affected communities to bring emergency relief.

Droughts have become more frequent and intense in recent years in western, eastern, and southern Africa. These droughts affect food-production systems in fragile contexts in similar ways that conflict does. Less food and water also means vast numbers of dead livestock in affected areas. This devastates families’ source of income and food.

And when nearly 40 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa grow up stunted due to chronic malnutrition, they lack the capacity to learn and contribute to society. It’s because their little bodies don’t get enough of the right nutrients at the right times to support physical and intellectual growth. Thus, their countries lose out on significant leadership and innovative potential, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and deprivation.

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