Faith Leaders Warn UK Government Must Not Ignore East Africa Hunger Crisis

Over 40 bishops from South Sudan and Kenya have united in appealing to the UK Government to “urgently get more funding to the front line of the hunger crisis in East Africa, and to mobilise the international community to collectively step up.”

After the worst drought in 40 years, millions across East Africa are facing the threat of famine and dying. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates 18.4m people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are missing meals.

In an open letter, 44 bishops from South Sudan and Kenya say they fear “early warnings were not heeded” and claimed, “existing commitments to strengthen resilience have not been backed up by funding that is so desperately needed.”

Yitna Tekaligne, Country Director for Christian Aid Ethiopia, explains “millions are taking desperate measures to survive in the face of failed harvests, livestock deaths, water shortages, and extreme hunger.”

He added:

The severe conditions are being made worse by the climate crisis, Covid and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused global food prices to rocket. A tough situation has now turned into a dire crisis.

The intervention, coinciding with World Humanitarian Day 2022, follows a vigil led by the Archbishop of Canterbury with Anglican bishops from around the world at the church’s Lambeth Conference in the UK.

Speaking after the vigil, Archbishop Justin Welby said:

The crisis in East Africa has been building for at least two years and is now devastating the people of the area and threatening worse. He added: “I appeal to our governments and to the people of this country, please step forward to enable food to be purchased.

The Most Revd Dr. Justin Badi Arama, Primate of South Sudan, is a signatory to the open letter. He said: “People are dying from starvation. Millions are hungry with three in four now facing severe food insecurity. We need the international community to act now to help prevent widespread famine, the UK Government can help by leading from the front.”

Working through local partners, Christian Aid is responding in Ethiopia and Kenya. The charity is helping over 300,000 people by repairing wells, handing out water purification kits, providing cash support, and trucking water to drought affected communities as well as providing fodder and medicine to keep valuable livestock alive.

One of many people Christian Aid is supporting is Adoko Hatoro Engang. He is 76 and living in an internally displaced person camp in South Omo with his family. Recurrent drought and flooding, due to the climate crisis and the overflowing river, has destroyed his farmland and depleted his livestock. This is causing hunger for his family.

“I remember when I was young, the rains would follow the drought season, and flooding devastated everything”, Adoko Hatoro Engang explains. He adds: “If I am able, I eat once a day. We only share very small amounts of food we cook, using the money Christian Aid gave us.”

Karimi Kinoti, who is based in Kenya and is Christian Aid’s interim Policy, Public Affairs, and Campaigns Director, has welcomed the bishops’ open letter. She said:

Ministers must speed up the delivery of funding that has already been promised, reverse cuts to international aid, and ensure all humanitarian and development funding supports local actors who are best placed to respond quickly.

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