The impact of the war in Ukraine is worsening the devastating food crisis for millions of people in the Horn of Africa, warns Islamic Relief.
Around 14 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are already in urgent need of assistance due to the region’s worst drought in nearly 40 years. The failure of three successive rainy seasons has destroyed livelihoods and forced families to leave their homes in search of food and water.
Today, staple foods such as wheat are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive as trade routes from Ukraine and Russia are severely disrupted. Many countries in the region typically import 60-80% of their wheat from Ukraine. With these interrupted imports, the price of bread and other staple foods is rising rapidly, affecting especially the poorest families.
Aid agencies’ limited funds are stretched as prices rise. In Somalia, Islamic Relief has had to reduce the number of people receiving lifesaving food deliveries at the start of Ramadan because there is not enough funding to meet rising prices. One thousand families will therefore not be able to receive food aid.
Aliow Mohamed, country director for Islamic Relief in Somalia, recently visited camps in Baidoa, where people have fled drought to try to find help. Islamic Relief teams in the camps provide food and shelter. He said:
“We had to reduce our food distributions by 1,000 families due to the drastic increase in food prices since the start of the war in Ukraine. Prices have increased by 30% and the cost of a 25 kg bag of rice has gone from 15 to 22 dollars.
“Life inside the camps is tough and some people don’t eat for a day or two. People are sharing the food they receive from aid organizations like Islamic Relief because there is not enough aid for everyone. Last week, a family told me that they had not eaten for two days because their neighbors who fed them were no longer receiving help. The situation is grim.
“Children and women are the most affected. I met a woman who had walked for a month to reach the camp and she was eight months pregnant. We are seeing an increase in cases of child malnutrition as food becomes more and more expensive.
“Islamic Relief provides families with cash assistance so that they can buy food from local markets. $70 per month used to cover basic food needs for a family of six – now due to rising prices families need at least $100 per month.”
Islamic Relief calls on international governments to act quickly and support efforts to address the growing hunger crisis in the region.
In Ethiopia, drought and internal conflict have left large numbers of people in need of food assistance. Millions of people from the east of the country have had to migrate to the capital Addis Ababa in an attempt to escape the drought, straining the city’s limited resources. Today, the impact of the Ukrainian crisis is pushing even more people into misery.
Ahmad Aba Jobir, country director of Islamic Relief in Ethiopia, said:
“The inflation rate in Ethiopia is 35% and food prices have skyrocketed in recent weeks. People are struggling to make ends meet, especially with unemployment hitting new record highs. There is a massive shortage of food items such as bread and oil, and prices have skyrocketed. As a result, many bakeries had to close. Fuel prices have risen by at least 30% in recent weeks, and there is a severe shortage – in some places the queue of cars outside gas stations stretches for miles.
“An estimated 5.8 million people are internally displaced in Ethiopia due to war and drought, and many live in camps without adequate facilities. However, most live with relatives and share food with them. There is a strong sense of togetherness and everyone is doing what they can to help. But the needs are very high. The number of beggars on the streets has increased and every day new people are knocking on our doors asking for help, but unfortunately we cannot help everyone.”
The crisis is impacting the poorest and most vulnerable families across Africa. In Sudan, 80% of wheat imports have been interrupted since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis and wheat reserves are dwindling. While a typical shipment from Ukraine contains 120,000 tons of wheat, the most recent shipment contained only 20,000 tons.
Elsadig Elnour, country director of Islamic Relief in Sudan, explains that the poorest families struggle to survive and many of them go whole days without eating:
“Prices have skyrocketed since the start of the Ukrainian crisis. There are now massive shortages of many staples, especially bread. A piece of bread that used to cost 30 Sudanese pounds now costs 50. Many bakeries have already closed due to the shortage of wheat. Others have reduced the size of the bread they produce. In recent weeks, crime in cities like Khartoum has started to rise as people grow increasingly desperate.
The UN warns that 20 million people in Sudan – almost half of its population – could go hungry by the end of 2022.
Islamic Relief responds to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa by providing needy families with food and cash; vaccinate and feed livestock to keep them healthy; repair the water supply and provide sanitary facilities; assist health workers in caring for severely malnourished children; and helping farmers develop new irrigation systems and drought-resistant seeds.