Dear Prime Minister,
Millions of people across East Africa are facing the worst hunger crisis in living memory following an unprecedented fifth failed rainy season and climate shocks. As the UK prepares to co-host a high-level pledging event for the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa, we urge you to step up life-saving funding and longer-term interventions to build resilience, while encouraging other donors to do the same.
Over 28 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan face acute hunger – more than double the number of people who experienced acute hunger during the disastrous 2011 drought when more than a quarter of a million people died. During the coming weeks, hunger in the region is expected to reach its highest level since the crisis began, with Oxfam now estimating one person is likely to die every 28 seconds between now and July.
People already living under the strain of poverty, have been pushed to – and in many cases over – the brink by climate change and conflict. Drought in some areas and severe flooding elsewhere means food is hard to come by and money is scarce, with millions having lost their sources of food and income and social safety nets woefully inadequate. Women and girls are being disproportionately impacted. Compounded by Russia’s war in Ukraine – which has had a knock-on effect on food and fuel prices – and the ongoing conflict in Sudan, a dire situation has been made worse.
Despite being warned of the risks as early as 2020, the international community has not done enough to prevent catastrophe – a $5 billion funding gap for the humanitarian response across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia remains. The UK was instrumental in persuading the G7 to pledge to prevent and anticipate crises like this but two years on, the UK is failing to live up to its own promises.
The crisis is now of immense proportion, but this conference is a vital opportunity to prevent further devastation. The UK humanitarian response, working with local people and organisations, has been crucial in tackling hunger in the region: when famine threatened the region in 2017, the UK provided £861 million to the region to stave off the worst-case scenario. Sixteen million lives were saved. A response on this scale is needed again if we are to bring people back from the brink of famine.
As Prime Minister, your leadership is needed now more than ever to engage with other nations to push for shared responsibility in providing the significant increases in funding that are needed to save lives while addressing the long-term impacts of climate change. This is not a matter of charity; it is about justice. People least responsible for the climate crisis are paying the highest price.
As well as immediate action to stave off hunger, the UK must act to stop crises like this from happening again by investing in resilience-building approaches to help people to break the cycle. This is the promise the UK made at the G7 in Cornwall two years ago, and it is time we honour our commitments.
Thank you for co-hosting this important event. We urge you to use your voice to spotlight this crisis, commit significant funding, and encourage other world leaders to step up to help avert famine in the region. Failure to act will result in many avoidable deaths.
- Tina Proudlock, Acting Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer, Oxfam GB
- Christine Allen, Director, CAFOD
- Eamon Cassidy, Interim CEO, CARE International
- Rose Caldwell, CEO, Plan International UK
- Harpinder Collacott, Executive Director, Mercy Corps in Europe
- Jean Michel Grand, Executive Director, Action Against Hunger UK
- Nigel Harris, CEO, Tearfund
- Mark Sheard, CEO, World Vision UK
- Romilly Greenhill, UK Director, The ONE Campaign
- Danny Harvey, Executive Director, Concern Worldwide UK
- Laura Kyrke-Smith, Executive Director, International Rescue Committee UK