In Africa, one in five people faced hunger in 2020. The number of hungry people continues to rise.
Conflict, drought, and economic woes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are reversing years of progress. As of 2020, more than one-third of the continent’s population was undernourished. In the whole of Africa, 282 million people were experiencing hunger, more than double the proportion of any other region in the world.
Conditions are deteriorating across East Africa, where 7.2 million people are at risk of starvation and another 26.5 million face acute food insecurity. At least 12.8 million children in the region are acutely malnourished.
“It’s heartbreaking that the lives of millions of children in East Africa are at risk due to a perfect storm of conflict, changing or unpredictable weather patterns, and the aftershocks of COVID-19,” said Edgar Sandoval Sr., president and CEO of World Vision U.S. “The long-term harm of malnutrition on children’s development hinders their ability to achieve their God-given potential.”
World Vision has launched an emergency response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda to help feed 7.1 million people, including 3.4 million children. We’re screening children and pregnant mothers for acute malnutrition and providing families with nutrition support.
“We are marshaling resources to support vulnerable communities across East Africa to avert the catastrophic effects of hunger, starvation, and loss of livelihoods. We are particularly concerned about the impact on children,” said Joseph Kamara, regional humanitarian and emergency affairs director for World Vision in East Africa. “It is not too late to avert the crisis, but it will be soon, if we don’t act quickly and decisively.”
Further south, successive crop failures and poor harvests in Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabweare taking a toll on agriculture production, and food prices are soaring. In recent growing seasons, parts of southern Africa experienced their lowest rainfall in decades. Significant below-average conditions are creating concern for the 2022 season. Other areas suffered widespread destruction from Cyclones Idai and Kennethin March and April 2019, near the time for harvesting.
Extreme hunger. Drought. Conflict. Help children and families in Africa.
FAQs: What you need to know about Africa’s hunger crises
Explore frequently asked questions about the Africa hunger crises, and learn how you can help hungry children and families:
- Fast facts: Africa hunger crises
- Why are people in Africa facing chronic hunger?
- I hear the word famine a lot, but how do you define famine?
- Why does it seem like there’s always a hunger crisis in Africa?
- What is malnutrition?
- How is World Vision responding to the Africa hunger and food crises?
- How is World Vision helping people affected by the East Africa hunger crisis?
- How are women and children in East Africa affected by hunger?
- How can people become resilient so they don’t need aid?
- How can I help hungry children and families in Africa?
- History of hunger and famine in Africa
Fast facts: Africa hunger crises
Recurring failed rainy seasons have made it impossible for many African farmers and herders to keep up their livelihoods. Cyclones, floods, and swarms of desert locusts also increased humanitarian needs in eastern and southern Africa.
- One in five people — 21% of the population — were facing hunger in Africa in 2020.
- 282million people are undernourished in Africa. That’s 46 million more people compared with 2019.
- Conflict, hunger, poverty, displacement, and the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic create a climate in which children are at risk of violence and exploitation.
- Families in Africa need help to keep the hunger and food crises from worsening. Children, especially those younger than 5, are the most vulnerable because they need critical nutrients to build strength and immunity against disease.
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Why are people in Africa facing chronic hunger?
Recurring drought, conflict, and instability have led to severe food shortages. Many countries have struggled with extreme poverty for decades, so there is a lack of government and community support systems for families. In particular, repeated drought cycles plunge communities into a new food crisis before they have a chance to recover sufficiently from the last one.
The secondary economic and social impacts of the pandemic have driven millions worldwide deeper into poverty, and these impacts persist for children and their communities throughout Africa. A decline in income opportunities, lost livelihoods, diminished purchasing power, and limited access to basic food and services are all continuing into 2022.
InSouth Sudan, where people fled their homes because of violence, few farmers have been able to harvest a crop. This limits what’s available at community markets and raises food prices. Also, when rains do come, 60% of the country is inaccessible by roads, which limits the transportation of food aid as well as goods sent to market.
South Sudanfaces “catastrophic” levels of acute hunger, according to theHunger Hotspotsreportfrom the World Food Programme (WFP) and theU.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with about 8.3 million people in need of emergency aid. Globally, World Vision is the WFP’s largest implementing partner.
The country has experienced devastating flooding that has forced over 800,000 people to flee communities along the Nile and Lol rivers and in the Sudd marshlands since May 2021.
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I hear the word famine a lot, but how do you define famine?
The dictionary definition of the wordfamineis “extreme scarcity of food.” In humanitarian terms, it’s the absolute worst-case scenario for a food crisis, with a specific technical definition. A food crisisonly becomesa famine when large-scale starvation, malnutrition, and death are observed.
For a famine to be declared, the following three things must all be true:
- At least 20% of households in a given area face extreme food shortages with limited ability to cope.
- More than 30% of children suffer from acute malnutrition.
- Hunger causes more than two deaths each day for every 10,000 people.
When a food crisis no longer meets these technical criteria, a famine is over (at least temporarily). For example, South Sudan declared famine in February 2017 in two counties in Unity state with a population of about 100,000. By July, enough aid had reached the area so that famine conditions had ended.
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Why does it seem like there’s always a hunger crisis in Africa?
Drought, poor harvests, and instability create a cycle that’s difficult to break. And this happens in other regions of the world — not just Africa.
When instability persists because of conflict or political factors, people may be forced from their homes or unable to plant crops. When this happens, less food gets harvested and food prices go up. Families’ livelihood prospects dwindle as markets close. Violent conflict makes situations worse because humanitarian groups often cannot access affected communities to deliver emergency relief.
Droughts have become more frequent and intense in recent years in West, East, and southern Africa. These droughts affect food-production systems in fragile contexts in similar ways that conflict does. Less food and water also lead to the death of livestock in affected areas. This devastates families whose herds are their main source of income and nutrition.
When large numbers of children (currently 61.4 million children in Africa) are stunted due to chronic malnutrition, they are often unable to learn — or even attend school. Thus, their countries lose out on significant leadership and innovative potential, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and deprivation.
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What is malnutrition?
Malnutrition refers to an unhealthy condition that develops when your body does not get enough of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to function properly. It can occur when you don’t eat enough food or you aren’t eating enough healthy food.
When food crises happen, some children are malnourished for long periods. This leads to wasting (being underweight for their height). Children who were already growing poorly when the food crisis began now risk becoming permanently stunted (being short for their age).
Those who are most at risk experience severe acute malnutrition, known as severe wasting. This means their bodies are losing the ability to absorb vital nutrients; they’re literally starving to death.
Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition don’t just need more food. They neednutrient-rich food treatment, called ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF).
Medical workers often measure a child’s mid-upper arm circumference to gauge the level of malnutrition the child is experiencing. That’s why you may see photos of people wrapping a band with green, yellow, and red sections around a malnourished child’s tiny upper arm. Green indicates the child is not malnourished. Yellow indicates malnourishment. Red indicates severe malnourishment and risk of death.
Malnutrition is the cause or a contributing factor to 45% of deaths among children younger than 5 globally, according to the World Health Organization.
Read more on the tragic, long-term effects of malnutrition.
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How is World Vision responding to hunger and food crises in Africa?
For more than 40 years, World Vision has been delivering emergency aid and long-term assistance to families and communities affected by food crises in Africa. Here are some of the ways we help to overcome the root causes of hunger and malnutrition:
- Food assistance, including emergency feeding and cash vouchers
- Diagnosis and treatment of maternal and child malnutrition
- Access to clean water and improved sanitation to prevent water-related diseases and support crop irrigation
- Training in improved agriculture techniques and help for farmers to diversify livelihoods
- Land rehabilitation to improve harvests
As of December 31, 2021, World Vision staff has reached 4.5 million people in six countries in East Africa — Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda — through life-saving programs including food and nutrition services, clean water and sanitation access, livelihood skills training, essential relief supplies, and psychosocial support and health programs.
Funding provided through child sponsorship programs in Kenya and Ethiopia enabled our local staff to assist communities in 2016 before the hunger crisis intensified. They provided drought-resistant seeds and training for farmers, cash-for-work programs, and other projects that help families avert crisis or weather it more confidently.
By the time the 2016 food crisis became full-fledged, staff in South Sudan and Somalia were already helping communities facing food insecurity and malnutrition due to conflict and years of persistent drought.
In drought-affected areas of southern African countries, especially Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, World Vision is supporting food and nutrition programs to stave off poverty and hunger.
Read about a family in Zambia that has addressed the effects of drought by raising goats.
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How is World Vision helping people affected by the East Africa hunger crisis?
As of December 31, 2021, World Vision has helped more than 4.5 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
Through our East Africa emergency response, we aim to help protect the lives and the livelihoods of 7.1 million people made vulnerable by severe conditions in these countries — including 3.4 million children.
World Vision is also currently serving more than 400,000 children in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda through our sponsorship programs.
Across East Africa, at least 12.8 million children are experiencing high levels of malnutrition. In South Darfur, Sudan, World Vision is providing nutritional care for children diagnosed with malnutrition. As of December 31, 2021, 69,269 children have received nutritional care for acute malnutrition.
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How are women and children in East Africa affected by hunger?
Hunger can have devastating consequences for women and children, going beyond health and nutrition to include the risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. The indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating these concerns for children and their communities that lack safety nets.
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How can people become resilient so they don’t need aid?
There’s no substitute for life-saving aid in an emergency. But World Vision also focuses onlong-term solutions that build resilience, which allows families and communities to recover when crops fail or streams dry up. Livelihood skills training is one aspect of World Vision’s current responses that help families find their own way out of a food crisis.
With long-term development programs in place, hunger crises can often be avoided, and families can maintain independence. Here’s how World Vision is working today to prevent future food and hunger crises:
- Farmers and pastoralists are supported in areas including market development, immunizations for livestock, and training and seeds to grow drought-resistant crops.
- Cash aid helps families get back on their feet and stimulates local markets.
- Saving groups, community banks, and financial literacy training help members recover from emergencies and save for future shocks.
- Installing and repairing water and sanitation facilities support health and crop growth.
- New business training, equipment, and materials help families diversify their incomes so their assets are protected from drought and adverse weather.
- Educational support for children helps them stay in school, better preparing them for the future and helping to establish generational resilience.
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How can I help hungry children and families in Africa?
- Pray for children and families affected by famine and hunger crises in Africa.
- Give to help deliver emergency food in Africa. Your gift will help provide essential care to hungry children and families.
- Sponsor a child. World Vision’s sponsorship program is the most powerful way you can help fight poverty at the family and community level. When you sponsor a child, you empower them, their family, and their community by helping them establish sustainable access to basics like nutritious food, healthcare, clean water, quality education, and more.
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History of hunger and famine in Africa
A look back at some of Africa’s major food crises shows conditions still faced by many Africans today: poverty, drought, conflict, and environmental degradation due to overgrazing, deforestation, and other types of environmental damages.
1968 to 1980s — A drought in the Sahel region led to 1 million deaths in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
1980 to 1981 — Drought and conflict led to widespread hunger in Uganda.
1984 to 1985 — Famine in Ethiopia: Drought in the northern highlands and difficulty in delivering aid led to about 1 million deaths and massive displacement.
1991 to 1992 — Drought and civil war led to a famine in Somalia.
1998 to 2004 — During the Second Congo War, more than 3 million people died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mainly from starvation and disease.
2011 to 2012 — The Horn of Africa hunger crisiswas responsible for 285,000 deaths in East Africa.
2015 to 2016 — A strong El Niño affected almost all of East and southern Africa, causing food insecurity for more than 50 million people.
2017 — 25 million people, including 15 million children, needed humanitarian assistance in East Africa. In September, inter-communal conflict in Ethiopia led to the internal displacement of more than 800,000 people.
2018 — Africa accounted for more than half of the global total of acutely food-insecure people, estimated at 65 million. East Africa had the highest number at 28.6 million, followed by southern Africa at 23.3 million and West Africa at 11.2 million.
2019 — Food security deteriorated. In late 2019, East Africa was afflicted by widespread breeding of desert locusts, which resulted in the loss of vast pasturelands and crops.
2020 — Large-scale floods decimated East African communities, devastating 4 million people across the region. Theconflict in Tigray, Ethiopia, dramatically increased displacement and food insecurity. Conditions deteriorated across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, where 12.8 million children experienced high levels of malnutrition.
2021 — In East Africa, 7 million people are at risk of starvation and another 33.8 million face acute food insecurity. At least 12.8 million children are acutely malnourished across the region, which includes Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
Chris Huber and Sevil Omer of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.
Distribute food to families facing hunger. Maintain and harvest fresh produce grown at local farms or community gardens. Run a food drive at your business, organization, department, school, or civic group. Organize or join a meal packing event so that families and children have shelf-stable meals at the ready year- ...What 3 factors cause famine in Africa? ›
Why is there famine in Africa? The causes of famine are complex and often interlinked with numerous other world events. Ongoing conflict, climate change, extreme poverty, displacement and political instability can create conditions that ultimately lead to famine. Conflict is often the main catalyst for famines.How can I help hungry children and families in Africa? ›
- Donate. Support Save the Children's mission. ...
- Sponsor a Child in Africa. Sponsor a child in Africa and help them grow up healthy, educated and safe. ...
- Browse the Gift Catalog. Give a unique and meaningful gift that will bring joy – and change lives.
One solution is to increase intra-African trade as a way to raise the resilience of the domestic and regional food markets to shocks. From this perspective, the AfCFTA is not just an opportunity for economic growth and development, but a necessity to ensure food security and resilience on the continent.How can we solve the drought in Africa? ›
The most effective drought agriculture solution is the implementation of regenerative farming practices. Regenerative agricultural practices have proven to minimise the effect of drought on agriculture.How can we help people with food? ›
Give money to your local food bank.
Food banks function as giant storehouses for large volumes of food donated or purchased in bulk, which they then distribute among food pantries—the smaller community operations in charge of actually getting the food into the hands of the people who need it.
- Include them in social activities. ...
- Keep meal times as stress-free as possible. ...
- Find safe ways to talk about it. ...
- Help them find good information and avoid bad sources. ...
- Share stories from other people. ...
- Encourage them to seek professional help.
Why should I care? We all want our families to have enough food to eat that is safe and nutri- tious. A world with zero hunger can positively impact our economies, health, education, equal- ity and social develop- ment. It's a key piece of building a better future for everyone.Why is Africa suffering from hunger? ›
278 million people in Africa suffer from chronic hunger. This corresponds to 20 percent of the continent's population. By comparison, ten percent are affected when looked at globally. According to Welthungerhilfe, the main drivers of hunger include wars, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.What is the main reason for famine? ›
What are the main causes of famine? Famines are caused by multiple factors including conflict and climate. A famine is not a natural disaster but a result of human actions or lack of action to prevent it. They do not happen overnight; they develop over time until they cause massive harm and suffering.
Donating groceries can help end the hunger of poor and needy people. They cannot even afford a single time meal for themselves and their family, so donating food will make their stomach fill and stay healthy. Rather than wasting food or throwing it, it is better to give it to a needy person.
Wiping out hunger in Africa could cost just $5bn.How much food aid does Africa get? ›
The U.S. government has provided nearly $1 billion in emergency food security assistance to countries in Africa suffering from extreme hunger and malnutrition. That is part of the $2.76 billion in U.S. funding that President Biden announced in June to address global food insecurity.What is the solution of food problem? ›
Reduce the Risk of Commercialising
If food is grown for the purposes of feeding the community or nation, food insecurity levels will go down. Farmers can produce more food crops and will be able to produce cash crops when there are enough food crops in the market.
Water Conservation. One of the easiest steps we can take to help mitigate the impacts of drought is conserving water. If we use water wisely at all times, more water will be available to us and to plants and wildlife when a drought happens.What is the best way to fight against drought? ›
- Check your well pump periodically. ...
- Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees, or small plants. ...
- Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use, such as micro and drip irrigation, and soaker hoses.
- Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil.
According to WFP, “Not only do the consequences of not enough – or the wrong – food cause suffering and poor health, they also slow progress in many other areas of development like education and employment.” Poor and inadequate nutrition also leaves children vulnerable to diseases and illness, and can cause stunted ...Why do we need to help the poor? ›
Helping poor and needy people is vital to strengthen the whole society. We raise the entire community as we provide support and a helping hand to those less fortunate than us. Helping them lead a better life for themselves and their community later on in life.How can we encourage people to eat? ›
Provide small portions, and then offer seconds rather than large portions which can seem overwhelming and put a person off even attempting to eat the meal. Try looking at 4 or 5 small dishes that can be eaten throughout the day.How do you motivate someone to eat? ›
Try giving encouragement and gentle reminders to eat, and of what they are eating. Try not to worry about mess - it's more important for the person to eat than to be tidy. Wipe clean mats and covers may help. It's important the person doesn't feel rushed and they are given enough time to eat.
- Staff need to encourage individuals to drink using a positive approach. ...
- Know the importance of being patient and understanding and not belittling people in front of others by referring to a “difficulty with eating and drinking”
We all want our families to have enough food to eat what is safe and nutri- tious. A world with zero hunger can positively impact our economies, health, education, equality and social development. It's a key piece of build- ing a better future for everyone.When did hunger become a problem? ›
The Great Depression, 1929–1935, marked the beginning of widespread hunger in America and the first efforts by communities, charities, and the federal government to do something about it.Who started Zero Hunger? ›
The United Nations's second Sustainable Development Goal, Zero Hunger, aims to end world hunger by 2030.How much is donated to Africa? ›
That story remains as true today as in Rodney's time. According to a 2014 report, Africa receives about $133.7 billion each year from official aid, grants, loans to the private sector, remittances, etc.How can we help community? ›
- Participate in Giving Tuesday. ...
- Help your local food pantry. ...
- Give blood if you're able. ...
- Volunteer your time. ...
- Check on neighbors and family members, especially those who live alone, are elderly, have health or mobility issues or are caring for children.
About 14 million people – approximately half of whom are children – are facing severe hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia alone.How many people starve to death in Africa? ›
This is true for adults in Africa as well. While the number of starving, malnourished Africans is alarmingly high and ranging in the millions, however, the number of deaths from starvation in Africa is surprisingly low at approximately 400,000 deaths per year.How much does it cost to feed a child in Africa? ›
According to the World Food Program, $15 could feed a hungry child in Africa for one month. With the savings gained simply from using these items and not buying new ones, a person or family could feed six hungry children in Africa for an entire month.What is risk of famine? ›
More than 41 million people around the world are now at risk of experiencing famine or famine-like conditions. Without transformational change, the world will not achieve the global goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, and the alarming increase in food insecurity and famine will likely worsen.
Famine is the most disastrous form of widespread hunger. While famine must meet the criteria listed above, hunger is considered by the United Nations to be undernourishment that lasts at least one year where people are unable to consume enough food to maintain a healthy weight and continue necessary physical activity.What damage can famine make? ›
Famine is a widespread condition in which many people in a country or region are unable to access adequate food supplies. Famines result in malnutrition, starvation, disease, and high death rates.Can the 1% End world hunger? ›
Yes, a 1 percent contribution from the world's billionaires would provide more than enough resources to end extreme poverty today.Can world hunger be solved? ›
Can we bring world hunger to an end? The general answer is Yes, eradicating world hunger is possible. However, it will take political and community action to make this a reality.How much would it take to solve world hunger? ›
A study produced in Germany suggests that the cost of ending world hunger within the next 10 years amounts to about $330 billion – $33 billion per year, spread between all the world's countries.Can Africa feed the world? ›
With 60 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land laying in Africa, it is estimated that if all the arable land in Africa were to be nurtured, with the right information and knowledge to farmers from credible research institutions and other technical expertise, Africa would be capable of feeding over 60 percent ...Does Africa produce enough food to feed itself? ›
Africa can produce enough food for its growing population - estimated to more than double to 2.5 billion people in 30 years - and dramatically reduce its more than $35-billion import food bill. But at the moment, heavy reliance on food imports is threatening the continent's food security.How can we prevent famine and drought? ›
Eliminating the threat of starvation and preventing famine entirely will require longer term and more complex interventions, including strengthening education, nutrition, livelihood resilience and social protection systems such as school meals programmes.How can we help the environment in Africa? ›
- Phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Many rich countries say they want a climate deal. ...
- Clean up climate finance. ...
- Drive Africa's low-carbon energy transition. ...
- Leave no-one behind. ...
- Adopt new models of planned urbanization. ...
- Have you read?
More importantly, African countries need to undertake bold domestic structural reforms to scale up the supply capacity of the region by improving digital connectivity, reforming fundamental institutions of legal frameworks, such as contract enforcement and property rights protection, maintaining stable and competitive ...
What are the main causes of famine? Famine can stem from a combination of multiple factors, such as conflict, displacement, chronic poverty, food insecurity, natural disasters and climate change.Are we responsible for famine? ›
Many famines are precipitated by natural causes, such as drought, flooding, unseasonable cold, typhoons, vermin depredations, insect infestations, and plant diseases. The most common human cause of famine is warfare, which destroys crops and food supplies and disrupts the distribution of food.What usually causes a famine? ›
What are the main causes of famine? Famines are caused by multiple factors including conflict and climate. A famine is not a natural disaster but a result of human actions or lack of action to prevent it. They do not happen overnight; they develop over time until they cause massive harm and suffering.What are 5 ways to help the environment? ›
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Cut down on what you throw away. ...
- Volunteer. Volunteer for cleanups in your community. ...
- Educate. ...
- Conserve water. ...
- Choose sustainable. ...
- Shop wisely. ...
- Use long-lasting light bulbs. ...
- Plant a tree.
Intra-state conflict, terrorism, and unconstitutional changes of government are three of the biggest security issues in Africa to monitor in 2022.What are the five 5 ways students can help save the environment? ›
- Eliminate Waste from Lunches.
- Stop Littering.
- Reduce Paper Consumption.
- Save Electricity.
- Save Water.
- Swap Regular School Supplies.
- Bring Reusable Bags to the Grocery Store.
- Walk to School or Take a Bike, Avoid Taking Cars or Carpool When Possible.
Going forward, it will be imperative for Africa to focus on boosting the manufacturing sector, which is vital particularly in terms of job creation. Africa should also harness technology, including artificial intelligence, to boost economic growth.What Africa needs to develop? ›
African countries need to build transformative, good governance and democratic institutions. A crucial component of such institutions is strong leadership. Leadership in the developmental State aims at defining an agenda that meets the needs of the people and puts national interests above personal interests.How can we help improve the economy? ›
- Join a Giving Circle. ...
- Shop Local Grocers. ...
- Shop Small Businesses. ...
- Pledge to Local Funding Initiatives. ...
- Attend Concerts of Local Artists. ...
- Support Community Events. ...
- Make an Impact in Your Local Economy Now.