February 26, 2018 | Food security

Thousands of resources have been used to alleviate the unprecedented East Africa food crisis, consequently, the crisis had been termed as the region’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades. This hunger crisis in East Africa is evidenced by the millions of people in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan that are in dire need of additional assistance. In South Sudan, for example, forty percent of the population and in particular the children are at risk of impending premature death from malnutrition. The situation is reflected in Kenya where the food crisis catalyzed a governmental declaration of the situation as a national disaster. Somalia is even worse off where over six million people risk losing their livelihoods and lives.

The sheer scale of the hunger crisis in East Africa has instigated a myriad of humanitarian responses from different organizations. Oxfam international has responded by providing lifesaving support in Somalia such as food, shelter, and water. Based on the hypothesis that children are the primary casualties of the Kenyan food crisis, Action Aid has responded through school feeding programs. The humanitarian response to the East Africa hunger crisis further reflected in South Sudan where plan international has provided much needed nutritional support. Arguably, while humanitarian aid plays a critical role in the alleviation of the East Africa food crisis, it is not enough to avoid the perpetuation of the problem. This begs the question of the root causes of the unprecedented food crisis in East Africa.

Genesis of the food crisis

Food insecurity and the resulting East African food crisis are attributable to drought in the region. According to Caritas – one of the humanitarian organizations that have responded to the East Africa hunger crisis- drought is the genesis of the food insecurity. In the last couple of years, East Africa has received low levels of rainfall. Notably, this is due to several factors including man-made effects of climate change such as rampant logging. The resulting water shortage has caused incessant food insecurity in the region as evidenced by extensive crop failure. The food crisis in Kenya, for example, has been caused by intensive loss of forest cover in the Mau among other regions. The man-made famine is similarly reflected in other countries in the region.

Successful crop production has a direct relationship with a dependable supply of water. Water scarcity has, therefore, played a key role in reducing agricultural production. The livelihoods of many Somalis, for example, are dependent on their livestock. Water scarcity has however led to the death of thousands of livestock in Somalia and in Kenya particularly in the arid northeastern region. Food production of staple foods has also failed due to lack of reliable water as evidenced by the maize shortage in Kenya. Ultimately water scarcity has led to food insecurity which has, in turn, worsened the East African food crisis.

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