A deadly mix of conflict, desert locust infestation, COVID-19 and the climate change crisis have pushed more than 7 million people across six countries in East Africa into a hunger crisis. According to UN reports, approximately 108,000 people in East Africa are under catastrophic conditions, a phase marked by critical acute malnutrition, hunger, destitution and death – this phase is understood in the humanitarian sector as the highest and most urgent Integrated Food Insecurity Phase Classification (IPC) of level 5. Additionally, almost 7.8 million people are exposed to emergency phase (IPC4), and as many as 26 million are classified at ‘crisis level’ (IPC3), where action is needed now to stop them from sliding into emergency.
The region has endured substantial and widespread breeding of desert locusts since late 2019, resulting in loss of pasture and crops. Added to this, between June – December 2020 rising conflict in countries such as Ethiopia has exacerbated the food insecurity situation in the region. The Climate Prediction and Application Centre and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation have both made predictions of dry conditions and worsening food insecurity situation in 2021. Coupled with economic impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, which continue to destroy livelihoods and push millions into desperation.
This challenging period could erode human and economic development gains that have been made towards the global Sustainable Development Goals across the region.
The rising food insecurity also increases the risks faced by women and girls, including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.