Africa’s hunger crisis aggravates as disasters strike one after anotherLast Update：2020/05/06
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has quickly spread around the world, becoming a real threat for even the poorest countries and communities. Due to the impact of climate change, these places have already been experiencing more frequent disasters, such as droughts, floods, cyclones and locusts. For the people living there, COVID-19 represents yet another challenge: not only is the virus potentially fatal, but the preventive measures on movement and delivery of goods imposed by authorities around the world have hugely affected the food supply chain, causing a drop in income for farmers and an increase in food prices that many can ill-afford.
The World Food Programme estimates that, if no actions are taken, the impact of COVID-19, climate change and conflict will expose over 265 million people to a food crisis, almost doubling last year’s actual figures. Various African countries, including Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Angola and Zimbabwe, have been bearing the brunt of climate change in recent years. These countries are experiencing more frequent disasters, such as droughts, floods, cyclones and locusts. An unbearable food crisis would be the most likely consequence should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in these countries.
East Africa’s agriculture has been heavily dependent on the balance of the dry and rainy seasons, and food supply has never been stable. Lately, due to the impact of climate change, some areas have been experiencing persistent droughts, while others have been going through floods, causing crop failures. This January, East Africa was further hit by massive swarms of locusts, hitting countries such as Somalia and Kenya and affecting more than 4,000 square kilometres – or almost four times the size of Hong Kong – of land.
Last year, climate change has caused floods in East Africa, and brought about malaria and other water-borne diseases. Worse still, it has facilitated the breeding of locusts.
Climate change has been causing droughts and irregular rainfall in Somalia for some years. The different forms of extreme weather have forced about 5 million Somalis to turn to humanitarian assistance, including about 1 million acutely malnourished children. Towards the end of last year, after being hit by cyclones, locusts began to grow and started to sweep past the area, destroying a lot of crops along the way and aggravating the burden on the locals.
Locusts have swept through villages in Somalia and Kenya, causing massive losses of crops.
Kenya experienced a short but extremely wet rainy season at the end of last year, receiving an amount of rain four times more than the average. This has caused landslides and flash floods that have affected more than 330,000 people. The country was also affected by the recent locust swarms, the biggest of which was 60 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide.
South Sudan is facing the two-fold blow of climate change and war. Currently, over 2 million South Sudanese are living as refugees in neighbouring countries and another 1 million are domestically displaced. At the same time, it is also hosting nearly 300,000 refugees that have come from several neighbours. These displaced people have lost their livelihoods and are reliant on humanitarian assistance.
There were serious floods in South Sudan last year, affecting close to 1 million people. It is estimated that, in the coming few months, food supply will drop drastically due to the effects of climate change. Over 15 counties are expected to be in emergency and even famine, with as many as 5.5 million people becoming food insecure and more than 1.3 million children under five projected to be acutely malnourished.
The impact of climate change has also reached countries in Southern Africa, with droughts causing food crises and malnutrition and putting the lives of millions at risk.
The only water sources that remain in some areas are contaminated, but people sometimes have no choice but to share them with their livestock.
Angola, a country in the southwestern part of the African continent, is currently facing the most serious drought in over 30 years. More than 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including about 85,000 malnourished children. As most of the locals are farmers and lack other sources of income, some children have been forced to drop out of school, or even married off in exchange for food for their families, leading to social problems such as child labour and child marriage.
In Angola, the severe drought has made life very difficult. Many girls in rural areas had to drop out of school and are even turning to prostitution to provide food for their families.
Zimbabwe is also facing severe food crises. In December last year, the country experienced high temperatures but received no rain at all. According to forecasts, over five million people are projected to become food insecure this April. This will likely lead to further inflation, making it impossible for the locals to afford food and leaving their livelihoods in jeopardy.
The drought has caused crops to fail. This family in Zimbabwe used to grow crops and keep goats, but now they had to sell all of their goats to buy food.
World Vision’s Response
World Vision is conducting emergency responses in multiple countries across East and Southern Africa. We are providing basic necessities, such as food and clean water, for people in need, ensuring children and women are nourished and protected, and responding to any other emergency needs emerged.
- Distribute emergency food packs*, drought-tolerant seeds and other agricultural inputs
- Monitor nutritional status of infants, pregnant and lactating mothers
- Provide training for villagers to reduce the impact of locusts
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
- Rehabilitate water facilities to provide water for communities
- Distribute hygiene items to communities in need
- Introduce protection projects and supply relief items, in order to prevent children and women from exploitation and harm due to hunger
- Provide livelihood assistance to help families recover
- Distribute cash to help families meet their most pressing needs
* World Vision partners with World Food Programme to distribute food aid in Somalia, Kenya and South Sudan.