Hunger crisis grips Horn of Africa – but 80% of Britons unaware, poll shows

UK government urged to act as worst drought in 40 years threatens region while aid efforts and global attention remain focused on Ukraine war

The UK government has been urged to give the hunger crisis gripping the Horn of Africa “proper attention”, as new polling showed just two in 10 people in Britain are aware that the worst drought in 40 years is even taking place, let alone threatening famine.

As the war in Ukraine rages, the combined effect of three failed rainy seasons has pushed parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia to the brink, killing livestock, forcing people to leave their homes and increasing levels of child malnutrition. The Russian invasion has exacerbated the situation, pushing up the price of staples such as wheat and sunflower oil, as well as fuel.

However, according to polling commissioned by Christian Aid, while 91% of the British public is aware of Vladimir Putin’s war, only 23% know about the worsening humanitarian crisis in east Africa.

Patrick Watt, CEO of Christian Aid, said the findings were “deeply concerning”.

“Across the Horn of Africa, up to 20 million people are facing hunger. Droughts have become increasingly severe and frequent, and so this is not a surprise. However, the war in Ukraine has turned a bad situation into a dire crisis. With rocketing food and energy costs around the globe, we are seeing people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia facing a crisis like no other,” said Watt.

“While we cannot thank the public enough for their response to humanitarian needs in Ukraine, the fact that so few people in Britain are aware of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is deeply concerning.”

For months, international NGOs and UN agencies have been warning that, while welcome and necessary, the unprecedented outpouring of funding and compassion for Ukraine is diverting attention from some of the world’s other humanitarian crises.

In Somalia, about 6 million people, 40% of the population, are suffering extreme levels of hunger, and the World Food Programme warned last month there was “a very real risk of famine” if the drought continued and assistance wasn’t received.

In Kenya, the number of people in need of food assistance has risen more than fourfold in less than two years, WFP said. In southern and south-eastern Ethiopia an estimated 7.2 million people wake up hungry every day, it added.

With the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Germany this week, a coalition of aid charities is urging the UK government to act to prevent famine, keep food affordable and commit to reversing its cuts to international aid.

“We must sound the alarm and give hope to people in need in the region. The cost of living crisis is global and demands urgent action from the government and the development sector,” Watt said.

More than 2,100 people were interviewed by the polling company Savanta for the survey.


Lizzy Davies

The GuardianTramp

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