For Immediate Release
On World Food Day, 17 Million People Face Starvation in the Horn of Africa
NAIROBI - In Ethiopia, at least 6.4 million people need emergency food aid. In Somalia, nearly half the population is slowly starving, and the country is facing a food crisis unseen since the famine of the early 1990s. And in Kenya, poor families are paying as much as 80 percent of their income just on food alone.
A combination of drought, conflict and rising food prices has left more than 17 million people in the Horn of Africa sliding into a full-blown humanitarian crisis - that's the equivalent of more than half of Calfornia facing starvation. These countries are heading into the peak hunger season when cereal prices are at their highest, and families have no stocks left from the previous harvest.
But with world markets in a downward spiral and world leaders warning of a coming global recession, the food crisis and the fate of 17 million people in Africa is being pushed down the list of priorities.
"These countries were already facing a combined threat of drought and rising food prices," said Jonathan Mitchell, CARE's Emergency Director. "Add to this the global financial crisis, and things could hardly be any worse. The perfect storm just got more perfect."
In CARE's Living on the Edge of Emergency report released last month, CARE warned that the number of people confronting a food emergency has skyrocketed to 220 million - almost twice as many in 2006. As governments tighten their spending, CARE is again warning that the international community must focus their efforts on disaster risk reduction, investing in food production and providing long-term safety nets to prevent the poorest from falling over the edge into starvation.
The consequence of not heeding this warning is what we're seeing today in the Horn of Africa.
"We're living in a world of global volatility, and we need to have a road map on how to confront hunger," said Mitchell, who recently returned from Ethiopia and Kenya, two of the hardest-hit countries. "For the 17 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa, it's too late for mitigation measures. We need to act now to prevent a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe."
CARE, with more than 60 years' experience distributing food to families in need, is rushing to fill the gap. CARE is providing emergency assistance such as food and drinking water to 3.1 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.
Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa: by the Numbers
The United Nations estimates that 40 percent of the total Somali population - an increase of 77 percent since January 2008 - are currently in desperate need of humanitarian assistance; by December, it is expected to affect nearly 50 percent of the population. This is due to a combination of factors including prolonged conflict, and rising global food and fuel prices. Without large-scale intervention by humanitarian organizations over the coming months, parts of the country risk disaster similar to the famine years of 1992-1993. Escalating conflict is making it more difficult to deliver aid to those in need.
Population: 7.4 million
People needing food aid: 3.2 million
CARE's response: CARE is one of the largest aid agencies working in south-central Somalia, and is providing assistance to nearly one million people - one-third of those in need.
Southern, central, western and northeastern Ethiopia are in the grip of a severe drought. Crop production is decreasing, families are selling their meagre assets to buy food, and livestock are dying in the worst-affected areas. More than 6.4 million people are in need of food assistance, and the numbers are climbing daily.
Population: 77 million
People needing food aid: 6.4 million
CARE's response: CARE is reaching 776,300 people with emergency assistance, including food and water.
The country faces an overall food deficit this year because of the post-election violence that disrupted production and fuel prices. Wholesale prices of main food commodities have risen more than 50 percent in key markets this year. Acute malnutrition among children under five has reached almost 30 percent in some parts of the Turkana district in the North.
Population: 34.3 million
People needing food aid: 1.4 million
CARE's response: CARE is providing emergency assistance to 240,000 people in Somali refugee camps, poor communities and urban slums.
Six years of conflict and mass displacement have left more than 4.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, making Darfur the biggest humanitarian operation in the world. During this year's hungry season, 3.5 million people need food aid.
Population: 40.2 million
People needing food aid: 3.5 million
CARE's response: CARE is providing emergency assistance such as safe drinking water, food and emergency supplies to 1.1 million people.
CARE is one of the world's largest, non-political international humanitarian and development organizations. CARE has been providing emergency assistance and development programs in the Horn of Africa since 1968.