Climate and food crisis in East and Central Africa

Amina (50) is the mother of 12 children. She is from Qararo. She arrived in the Gunagado displacement camp in 2017 after the drought killed her family's cattle and an outbreak of disease (probably cholera) endangered her family.

Amina, 50, arrived in the Gunagado displacement camp in 2017 in search of food and water after the drought killed her cattle and an outbreak of disease endangered her family. Pastoralist communities in the Somali region have been suffering 4 years of erratic rains and millions of people have lost their livestock. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

East and Central Africa are in the grip of a devastating food crisis. More than 33 million people are in need of humanitarian aid as climate extremes have caused widespread food shortages. Millions more lives are at risk as the region gets infested by locust swarms which represent an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. Oxfam is on the ground, providing lifesaving food, clean water and sanitation but we urgently need your help to do more.

“The region is facing multiple concurrent crises. Together they form a lethal combination that threatens to increase hunger, poverty and suffering for millions.”

Lydia Zigomo
Oxfam’s Regional Director in the Horn, East and Central Africa

A cycle of devastating drought and floods

An extreme lack of food is causing severe hunger and malnutrition across East and Central Africa, following consecutive failed rainy seasons, prolonged drought and in some areas subsequent floods.

These weather extremes have devastated millions of lives, cut people’s ability to access food and left them very vulnerable to future shocks. The crisis is compounded as millions of people have been forced to flee their homes in the region due to conflict.

A farmer trying to chase locusts away in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya

Desert locusts have swarmed into Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia, destroying farmland. Photo: FAO/Sven Torfinn

The worst locust invasion in decades

The region is also facing the biggest locust outbreak in over 25 years, and the most serious in 70 years for Kenya. Millions are sweeping across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and have decimated thousands of hectares of crops.

This outbreak has been made worse by the climate crisis, with unusually heavy rains leading to a growth of vegetation in arid areas, providing locusts with more food, and the conditions needed to develop and reproduce. An average swarm can contain up to 40 million insects, travel up to 150 km in a single day and consume enough food to feed 34 million people within that time.

The floods and a new wave of locust infestation will lead to increased food shortages in a region where over 33 million people are already severely food insecure.  At the same time, the economic fallout from governments’ efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic is likely to push millions of people further into poverty as there are little or no social safety nets to protect them.

Oxfam’s response

Oxfam is working closely with local partners in Ethiopia, Kenya. Uganda and Somalia, to provide cash assistance to more than 6,000 households to buy food. We are also distributing soap, hygiene kits and clean water to hospitals and communities.

Our staff have been increasing public awareness to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, including broadcasting messages in local languages with megaphones in rural villages. We prioritize support for women, as they are disproportionately affected by the crisis with increased livelihood and childcare burdens, plus higher risks of sexual violence. 

We can stop the worst from happening. You can save lives by supporting Oxfam’s work providing emergency help to those who need it most.