Africa is facing its worst food crisis in 40 years. Nearly 114 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, Almost half the population of the United States, face severe food insecurity. In East Africa, 50 million people are at risk. In the Sahel, the number of people in need of emergency food assistance has quadrupled to 30 million over the past seven years.
Climate change, increased conflict, and low agricultural productivity have compounded the problem of Africa’s food crisis. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for immediate and long-term interventions.
It is the most vulnerable who are paying the highest price for the current food crisis. Men and women lose their livelihoods when crops fail, animals die of hunger or thirst, and soils are washed away. Children suffer from hunger, and their education is interrupted. As the drought relegates food needs, Women are affected, especially young girls and pregnant and breastfeeding women who also struggle to access to menstrual hygiene.
All African countries urgently need humanitarian assistance to carry out their life-saving actions. Organizations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are stepping up, together with the IFRC, governments, and partners, to provide this urgent support. But they recognize, as does WWF, the need to also build resilience to hazards and address the root causes of food insecurity.
The factors of food insecurity are multiple. Many underlying causes can be found in the twin environmental crises of climate and nature loss, which add to the problems caused by factors such as poverty and conflict. Each of these factors has a direct impact on the food security of populations and are all factors that cause malnutrition among vulnerable populations in Africa.
“We lack food and water. You can flee the fighting, but you cannot escape the drought,” says Deeko Adan Warsame, chairwoman of the Guriel Women’s Council in northern Somalia.
Somalia, an East African state, has been hard hit. Livestock, an essential means of subsistence in the Horn of Africa, are threatened by the persistent drought. This led to unprecedented carnage within the herds due to the lack of pasture and water.
An estimated 1.5 million animals died, and those that survived were weak and debilitated. Agricultural production is 58 to 70 percent below the average for the region as a whole.
And what is happening in Somalia is repeated in other countries in the Horn of Africa and as far as the Sahelian strip.
Rainfed agriculture in the Horn of Africa has almost consistently failed in recent years. Many farmers then had no choice but to abandon their fields to settle in the big cities in the hope of finding other means of subsistence.
The Sahel is also suffering the consequences of one of the worst rainy seasons in 40 years, and more than 12 million people are at risk of severe food insecurity, including 1.7 million in an emergency situation, in five countries of the Sahel: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad.
Malnutrition rates are increasing due to deteriorating purchasing power and limited access to healthy food and health care. These high rates of malnutrition are also observed in Kenya and the Central African Republic.
Faced with the growing risk of famine in sub-Saharan Africa, Development and Peace provide emergency aid to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. In Somalia, a few humanitarian organizations on the ground are already providing primary treatment for severe and moderate acute malnutrition to children under five and pregnant and lactating women, as well as training and awareness sessions for parents and caregivers to improve their nutrition knowledge and skills.
In addition to emergency aid, the humanitarian organization Development and Peace is already supporting long-term local solutions to these crises by implementing food security and food sovereignty projects in the production and processing sectors of the countries of the South, for example, in the Sahel, and Madagascar. These projects support smallholder farming practices that are resilient to climate change and fluctuating international markets while addressing the constraints faced by those working elsewhere in the food chain. This investment in smallholder agriculture will further contribute to strengthening local agrifood markets, encouraging sustainable ecological farming practices, increasing sub-Saharan Africa’s food sovereignty, and averting future famines.