16 June 2022

British Red Cross launches Africa Food Crisis Appeal to avert catastrophe

The British Red Cross has launched an appeal to respond to the growing food crisis faced by communities across Africa, including in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Somalia. 

With more than 100 million people already struggling without food across the region, the British Red Cross warns that the number of people without access to food, is set to rise unless action is taken now.

Climate change, conflict and Covid, made worse by global price rises, and the conflict in Ukraine, are having a devastating impact on people’s health, lives, and livelihoods. The Red Cross is hearing that parents are being forced to sacrifice meals so that their children can eat, sometimes not eating for days themselves. Children are being taken out of school to earn money so that families can buy more food, yet every morning families are still waking up hungry. 

Red Cross teams are working on the ground across the continent, supporting communities who have been hit hardest with water, food, immediate financial help, nutrition services, and healthcare. They have also continued to work alongside communities to find solutions, providing drought-resistant seeds, developing new farming techniques where water is scarce, and providing financial support to farmers and people impacted.

But the British Red Cross warns that, in the short-term, humanitarian organisations will not be able to avert catastrophe in the region without more funding. In the long-term, communities will continue to be impacted by extreme changes to climate, unless governments stick to commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow and invest in building communities’ resilience.

Dr Asha Mohammed, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross, said:

“We have been sounding the alarm for some time in Kenya. We are facing the worst drought in 40 years. Crop production has decreased by 70%. As a result, 4.1 million people in Kenya do not have enough food. The Red Cross has so far reached over half a million people with food, water, health care and support to farmers in Kenya, but this is not enough. We need more funding in the short-term, and more action for the future.

“This crisis is not caused by climate change alone, but it is certainly a key driver. I heard first-hand the commitments made by governments at COP26 to take action to support communities to adapt to these crises. Governments must stand by these commitments and invest in building communities’ resilience as the long-lasting solutions needed to help people impacted by the climate crisis.”

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said:

“Climate, Covid and conflict, and now, the crisis in Ukraine, have come together to create disastrous conditions. We need a concerted and meaningful financial and humanitarian response now, to avert an otherwise certain catastrophe. Red Cross teams are responding but they alone will not stop this crisis from escalating.

“The UK must play a leading role in responding to this growing emergency. Communities urgently need support, not only with immediate food and healthcare needs, but also longer-term, sustainable solutions. By responding quickly and early in 2017, we prevented a calamitous crisis in the Horn of Africa. We must see that same urgency now.”

Notes to editors

Mike Adamson has just returned from Ukraine.

Dr Asha Mohammed was a special representative at COP26 and is leading the humanitarian response in Kenya.

Photos and B-Roll from the region are available.

Latest figures

Large parts of Somalia, Ethiopia and north-eastern Kenya are facing one of the most severe droughts they have seen in 40 years. This is one of the most prolonged droughts in recent history. Drought has caused an estimated seven million livestock deaths, meaning a loss of food or income for families1. 14 million people do not know where their next meal will come from.

Lack of access to food in parts of Somalia have recently reached catastrophic levels with an estimated 5.2 million people - 33% of the entire population – experiencing crisis or worse. This is expected to deteriorate further and faster between June and September if food assistance is not scaled up and sustained2.

Across the continent crop production has drastically decreased; in Niger by 40% and in Kenya by a staggering 70%.

In Nigeria alone, an overwhelming 19.5 million people do not have enough to eat.

Across the continent, hunger is contributing to 45% of children’s deaths.

What the Red Cross is doing

In north-eastern Kenya, the Kenyan Red Cross has reached more than 520,000 people as part of its drought response so far. They are providing food, safe and clean drinking water as well as health support and livestock support, alongside financial assistance.

The Nigerian Red Cross is one of the lead responders in the country, supporting people affected by the food crisis. They plan to reach 200,000 of the most affected communities in the North West and North Central states through food distribution, financial assistance, and support with essential household items, as well as seeds and tools for growing food. They are also supporting with health services such as water and sanitation support.

The Ethiopian Red Cross is planning to support 500,000 people most affected by the drought to meet their basic needs by providing financial assistance and food, farm tools, seeds, and fertiliser to support people to maintain their livelihoods, alongside psychosocial support, and protection services. 

The Somali Red Crescent has supported around 1.2m people with their drought response through mobile health clinics in the most affected areas, and financial assistance to buy food and essential items. They are also providing clean water and immunisations to prevent the spread of disease amongst the worst affected areas.