WHO Launches Appeal To Respond to Food Crisis in Horn of Africa Food Security 03/08/2022 • Raisa Santos Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Millions of lives are at risk due to an unprecedented food crisis in the greater Horn of Africa. In light of an unprecedented food crisis in the Horn of Africa, the World Health Organization has launched a $123.7 million funding appeal for urgently needed supplies to treat severe malnutrition and related health conditions. Driven by conflict, changes in climate and the COVID-19 pandemic, this largely arid Eastern African region of some 2 million square kilometres spanning the Indian Ocean to the sources of the Nile, traditionally home to pastoralists and subsistence farmers living off of livestock and harvests of rain-fed crops, has become a hunger hotspot with disastrous consequences for the health and lives of its people. “Hunger is a direct threat to the health and survival of millions of people in the greater Horn of Africa, but it also weakens the body’s defenses and opens the door to disease,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement. Four consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated locally grown crops such as maize, wheat and caused abnormally high numbers of livestock deaths, in a crisis considered to be one of the worst climate change-related disasters in over 40 years. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted supply chains and sent prices of imported wheat, cooking oil, and other cooking staples soaring, further worsening the crisis. Prior to war, Russia and Ukraine supplied 40% of Africa’s grain Children across the Horn of Africa are at risk for acute malnutrition. Prior to the war, Russia and Ukraine supplied Africa with more than 40% of the continent’s grain. Somalia alone used to import more than 92% of its wheat from these two countries, but supply lines have since been blocked. Now over 80 million people in the 7 countries spanning the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda — are estimated to be food insecure, as a result of this food crisis. Upwards of 37.5 million people are classified by WHO as being in a Phase 3 food crisis, a stage where people have to sell their possessions in order to feed themselves and their families, and where malnutrition is rife. Additionally, more than 1.7 million children across parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya urgently need treatment for acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF. “WHO is looking to the international community to support our work on the ground responding to this dual threat, providing treatment for malnourished people, and defending them against infectious diseases,” Tedros said. “Hunger is a direct threat to the health and survival of millions of people in the greater Horn of Africa, but it also weakens the body’s defenses and opens the door to disease,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “WHO is looking to the international community to support our work on the ground responding to this dual threat, providing treatment for malnourished people, and defending them against infectious diseases.” The funds raised from the appeal will go towards urgent measures to protect lives in the region, including increasing countries’ capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks, procuring and ensuring the supply of life-saving medicines and equipment, identifying and filling gaps in health care provisions, and providing treatment to sick and severely malnourished children. Situation continues to worsen With the start of the autumn rainy season expected to be delayed once more, thus delaying the planting of new crops, the food insecurity in the Horn of Africa is expected to continue to grow through the autumn. In Somalia alone, about 7.1 million people — almost half the population — will confront crisis-level food insecurity or worse until at least September and 213,000 of them face catastrophic hunger and starvation, according to the Integrated Food Security Classification (IPC), an intergovernmental consortium including UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, that tracks and ranks food insecurity hotspots. “Ensuring people have enough to eat is central. Ensuring that they have safe water is central. But in situations like these, access to basic health services is also central,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. “Services like therapeutic feeding programmes, primary health care, immunization, safe deliveries and mother and child services can be the difference between life and death for those caught up in these awful circumstances.” Violence, disease outbreaks, and displacement result from food crisis The food crisis has resulted in avoidable death of children and women in childbirth. The food crisis has also resulted in increased violence, outbreaks of disease, and mass displacement. There are already reports of avoidable deaths among children and women in childbirth. Gender-based violence is on the rise. There are outbreaks of measles in 6 of the 7 countries, against a background of low vaccination coverage, in addition to the mass displacement of people and relaxation of social distancing norms. Countries are also simultaneously fighting cholera and meningitis outbreaks as hygiene conditions have deteriorated, with clean water becoming scarce as people migrate. The region already has an estimated 4.2 million refugees and asylum seekers, with this number expected to increase as more people are forced to leave their homes in search of food, water, and pasture for their animals. When on the road, communities find it harder to access health care, a service already in short supply following years of underinvestment and conflict. WHO has already released US$ 16.5 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to ensure people have access to health services, to treat sick children with severe malnutrition and to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. The global health agency has also set up a hub in Nairobi to coordinate delivery of medical supplies and other WHO support to areas of the region in the throes of conflict, humanitarian and climate-related crises. Image Credits: Mohammed Omer Mukhier/Twitter , WHO/Twitter , HBNonline/Twitter . Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.