Rethinking food systems in East Africa amid conflict, climate change and rising hunger
Story | 24 July 2023
The drought that continues to ravage the Horn of Africa now spans five consecutive failed seasons. It was declared a national disaster in Kenya in September 2021, and has resulted in over 3 million livestock deaths, dried-out water sources and sharply reduced harvests.
The number of people in urgent need of food assistance has risen sixfold, from 739,000 in August 2020 to 4.4 million in February 2023.
The nutrition situation has deteriorated in most counties. Nearly 1 million children aged 6-59 months, and 142,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women and girls, are acutely malnourished and in need of treatment, up from 755,000 and 103,000 respectively since February 2022.
Food prices are rising beyond the reach of vulnerable families in drought-stricken, arid lands, and among the urban poor. Prices for food and fuel had already increased as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chains. They have continued to rise sharply, due to the conflict in Ukraine.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing cash and in-kind food assistance to nearly 1 million people – out of an estimated 700,000-plus at emergency levels of hunger – for six months. WFP has expanded prevention and treatment of malnutrition nutrition programmes from 8 to 15 counties, to reach almost 580,000 young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women and girls.
WFP is also providing assistance to more than 600,000 refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma camps and in the Kalobeyei settlement. However, funding shortages mean refugees last received a full ration – which meets their minimum food requirement – in 2018. Rations have fluctuated between 80 percent and as low as 50 percent, depending on available resources. As of July 2023, refugees will receive just 60 percent of the minimum food basket. This has led to worsening food-consumption scores, resulting in crisis levels of acute malnutrition. More than half of children under 5 years are suffering from anaemia.
WFP requires an additional US$85 million to provide full rations to refugees, and to continue to provide food assistance to Kenyans through the drought emergency response, for six months.
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