Millions of people left hungry due to drought in southern and eastern Africa

Topics: Africa, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
February 17, 2017

The worst drought in decades threatens to leave tens of millions of people in the region of eastern and southern Africa without enough food The worst drought in decades threatens to leave tens of millions of people in the region of eastern and southern Africa without enough food. In the three countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya alone, an estimated 15 million people are currently in need of urgent food assistance.

The county of Marsabit in the north of Kenya is one of the worst-affected areas in the country, where the drought has reached alarming levels.

 “We have countless challenges. The drought has dried up all our water sources, wiped out our pastures and livestock,” says Umuro Katelo, who lives in the village of Dukana in Marsabit county. “The effects are severe and are causing mental problems to some people.”

Alidema Galgalo, who also lives in Marsabit county, has lost 80 out of the 115 animals he owned before the drought.

“Even the 35 left are weak,” says Galgalo.  “At this rate, I doubt they will survive past the month of February.”
The Kenya Red Cross Society has been helping people like Galgalo with food, cash transfers and the rehabilitation of water sources.

In neighbouring Somalia, Bile Abdi and his extended family are seeking refuge – including water and viable grazing land – in Tukaraq, 150 kilometres from their home. Like many other drought-affected families across Somalia, their situation is getting desperate.

“I am 75 years old. I have not heard of or seen such a severe drought,” says Abdi.

Unfortunately, Abdi’s grandson did not survive the journey.  

“He’s gone, he died while on our way here,” says Abdi. “Thirst and dehydration killed him.”

Abdi’s larger family also saw more than 1,100 of their goats and sheep perish.

“This drought is different from the previous droughts. People from all over do not have anywhere to escape to and some came here,” says Abdi.

Most people in Somalia like Abdi and his family are pastoralists who depend on their livestock for survival. The drought conditions have forced these communities to travel long distances in search of water and pasture.
Pedram Yazdi, an aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says people in search of food and water are being forced to leave some family members behind who are too weak to move.

“The journey that these families have to take is not easy,” says Yazdi.

As part of it its response to the severe drought in Somalia, the ICRC has begun a series of food distributions starting in locations across northern Somalia that will continue also in South-Central, including in areas affected by conflict.

Donations to the Canadian Red Cross International Disaster Relief Fund are always accepted and used to support response operations to crises like these. Donations allow the Canadian Red Cross to respond within hours of a disaster, anywhere in the world.