Where we work
Our annual report
The hunger crisis in East Africa is truly harrowing. Over 35 million people are in need of assistance as they face life-threatening hunger across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.
For most people living in rural East Africa, rain-fed small-scale farming is their main source of livelihood. Erratic climate conditions are contributing to droughts that have left millions without food or an ability to earn a living from the land. In some parts of East Africa, heavy rains have returned – but this presents a different problem as the ground has been parched from the drought and cannot absorb the water, leaving 900,000 people impacted by the floods.
The effects of the hunger crisis are dire. In Somalia, for example, nearly 44% of children under five years old are malnourished and in need of urgent help.
We wanted to put a spotlight on the lengths ordinary people affected by hunger in East Africa are going to feed their families amid a hunger crisis.
Surviving by meal skipping
In parts of the world experiencing hunger crises, during the early stages people begin by skipping meals, with parents perhaps choosing to feed their children instead of themselves.
By choosing to skip meals, many parents in East Africa are making the difficult choice to ration their food or prioritise feeding the more vulnerable members of their family to maximise their chances of survival. However, meal skipping is not a viable adjustment for long-term hunger crises.
Meal skipping or irregular eating patterns can have severe implications for families, with meal skipping being ‘significantly associated’ with worse nutrition and health, as well as poorer school performance of children. It is also correlated with chronic health issues such as chronic asthma, iron deficiency as well as headaches and stomachaches.
Searching for alternative food
Lobakari Dida is a 90 year old pastoralist living in Marsabit, Kenya. Before the drought, Lobakari was a profitable pastoralist with his total livestock being valued at around $35,000 USD. Unfortunately, since the five successive failed rainfall seasons causing the worst drought emergency of over 40 years in East Africa, he has lost all of his livestock. Pastoralists in Northern Kenya have lost over 2.6 million livestock to the drought!
In order to survive, Lobakari and his family must venture deep into the rural countryside to find small ‘bush fruit’ in the wild. These alternatives to their regular diets take days of cooking to break down into an edible but not very nutritious food source.
During food shortages, many people forage for wild plant foods and other alternate food sources to cope with hunger. Some communities also resort to eating seed stocks intended for future planting, which destabilises the long-term prospects of the community to thrive.
Many of these alternative foods lack the nutritional value of the meals in their regular diet. Low quality diets tend to lack key vitamins, minerals and contain too little calories to properly energise people and can lead to chronic diseases. To add to this, malnutrition not only affects the survivability of a child, but hunger experienced in the first two years of a child’s life can make them susceptible to childhood stunting which affects brain, organ and immune system development as well as overall growth. Adults who survive childhood malnutrition report higher likelihoods of being shorter, underweight and with less bone and muscle density and poorer academic achievement.
Pregnant women are also vulnerable to malnutrition and hunger, with the risks of death for mother and baby being considerably higher.
Searching for food, regardless of nutritional value, offers temporary respite for families. But this is unsustainable as it often means families are living day-to-day and have little long term prospects of building communities where they have regular access to food and water.
Displacement and hunger
When people can no longer live off their land and feed their families many migrate within their countries to escape hunger.
Khuresha Ali is a divorced mother of nine children, living in camps for internally displaced families just at the outskirt of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. In September 2022, Khuresha fled her home in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia due to ongoing severe drought. Before the drought, Khuresha and her family were farmers, but the drought destroyed her income and livelihood. Khuresha took her children and fled to the capital to look for humanitarian assistance. As Khuresha has not been able to get humanitarian assistance, she started to work as a housemaid to support her family. Khuresha is not alone in this decision as a combination of drought, food insecurity and conflict have led to 1.3 million Somalis leaving their rural communities in search of food and water, often fleeing towards the capital or internal displacement camps.
The current hunger crisis in Somalia has led to 7.1 million people not meeting their daily food requirements. With making a living off the land not an option for millions, people like Khuresha are leaving their rural communities in search of food and water to feed themselves and their families.
Displacement is often the only option available to many families suffering from hunger. Indeed, it is hard to fault the choice to migrate from a drought or flood damaged community to a place with more accessible food, water and medicine. However, displacement can raise several problems for displaced people and the host communities. Internally displaced people are more vulnerable to violence, human trafficking (especially in the absence of or insufficient humanitarian assistance) and often have to contend with living in overcrowded conditions where healthcare, housing and security are limited.
Concern's work in East Africa
At Concern, we are aware of the ways in which individuals and families are taking ownership of their lives and are fighting back against hunger in East Africa.
One person we wanted to draw attention to was Concern’s very own Mubarak Mohamed. Working with Concern for nearly 10 years, Mubarak is Concern’s Programmes Manager in Somaliland. Mubarak has been leading a programme which aims to build community’s resilience to drought and has been overseeing water production in the region. As part of the programme, Concern drilled a borehole in one of the driest areas of the region to provide water for around 600 households, which is an estimated 3,600 people and their livestock.
Not only are Concern leading programmes that drive climate resilience and relief in the region, Concern is advocating for action on climate change, including for high-income countries to meet their climate funding commitments for those countries suffering the impacts of climate change.
Other ways to help
Give a one-off, or a monthly, donation today.
From mountain trekking to marathon running, join us for one of our many exciting outdoor events!
With an extensive range of alternative gifts, we have something to suit everybody.
Leave the world a better place with a life-changing legacy.
We partner with a range of organisations that share our passion and the results have been fantastic.
Raise money for Concern by organising your own charity fundraising event.