East Africa humanitarian work

Humanitarian work helping people in East Africa

The British Red Cross is providing emergency supplies and support to people in East Africa affected by hunger, as Ethiopia, Tigray, the Horn of Africa and other areas endure drought, conflict and other crises.

Last updated 1 December 2023

People in East Africa are facing an enduring hunger crisis

Right now, communities across Africa, including Ethiopia, face a severe food crisis. Soaring food prices and climate change mean that over 150 million people are struggling to find food.

The worst drought in decades has resulted in an estimated 7 million livestock deaths in East Africa and a loss of income.

And now, due to the Indian Ocean Dipole and El Niño phenomena, heavy rains have hit the region hard since the end of October. They have triggered terrible floods with devastating consequences for both lives, livelihoods and food security, the short-term displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and the heightened risk of water-borne disease and desert locusts.

Yet another climate shock is pushing some of the most resilient and resourceful people in the world to their breaking point.

As a result, millions of people in East Africa don't know where their next meal will come from.

Red Cross volunteers provide humanitarian aid to people affected by the drought and conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian drought is the worst the country has seen in 40 years and people have lost their livelihoods. 


Across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, it's expected that 10.3 million children under five will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2023. Please support our vital aid to people in need across East Africa.

Arrow icon How are we helping people in East Africa?

What's happening in Ethiopia? 

Ethiopia's most vulnerable at risk due to drought and conflict

In Ethiopia, a combination of drought, flooding, disease outbreaks, large scale population displacements and conflict has caused widespread hunger. Women, children and other at-risk groups are suffering the most.  

Latest reports indicate that 20 million people in Ethiopia are now in need of humanitarian assistance across the country due to the combined impact of the crises.

The British Red Cross and our partners in the Red Cross Movement are providing cash grants, food, healthcare and clean water to hundreds of thousands of people in need.

How is the British Red Cross helping people in East Africa?

Drought, violence, flooding, being forced from your home and hunger: the situation in Eastern Africa is desperate.

The Ethiopian Red Cross has supported 155,000 people most affected by the food crisis by providing financial assistance and food. They have also helped maintain the livelihoods of 137,000 people. 

They are also providing psychosocial support and protection services and are scaling up to support a further 500,000 people in affected areas.

Red Cross volunteers were deployed to conduct nutrition screenings and community mobilisation campaigns aimed at combating malnutrition. A total of 135,000 people were reached with nutritional and health education messages.

In collaboration with the National and Regional Seed Authorities, the ICRC assisted farmers in violence-affected areas, including Oromo, Somali and Tigray regions, to produce high quality certified seeds. Some of the cooperatives have already produced surplus seeds that have been distributed to other areas in need.

Protection for women, children and vulnerable people in East Africa

The food crisis continues to disproportionately disrupt women's access to nutritious food. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria, 2 million pregnant and lactating women are expected to suffer from malnutrition.

The impact on their health is incredible dangerous - these women aren't just fighting for their own lives, they're fighting for the next generation too.

Along with people with disabilities, older people and small children, women and girls are also at particular risk from armed groups and the conflicts in the Horn of Africa. They face sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and trafficking.  

Local communities often just don't have the resources to protect their most vulnerable people in emergencies, especially since medical facilities have been damaged in the violence.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement will work with local volunteers to ensure these groups are protected. We provide:

  • women, young children and girls with a safe space in settlements
  • dignity kits will be provided, with essentials such as sanitary towels
  • vulnerable groups will receive priority access to vital healthcare
  • support to services for survivors of sexual violence. This includes medical and psychological help and financial help so people can start to recover their lives
  • help for families trying to reconnect after being separated by fighting



People caught up in fighting in places like Ethiopia have had to leave their homes and move to camps or live within communities in different regions.

Conditions in the camps are poor: people in East Africa are living out in the open, without tents or shelter.

Cramped conditions create poor health. Often people don’t have enough clean water or toilets and this increases the chances of disease. 

The Red Cross will make sure that people in camps can live in safety and dignity. We will:

  • provide emergency shelter kits and essential household items
  • support communities to build emergency shelters using local, salvaged materials and provide technical support
  • plant trees to replace those cut for construction



Many people in East Africa have little access to basic health services. Hospitals have either been closed, damaged or looted, while healthcare workers have had to leave hospitals for their own safety.

With little water supply and poor sanitation in the camps, diseases such as cholera are likely to take hold and spread.

Many East African people are also deeply traumatised. Separation, as well as loss of loved ones, homes, livelihoods and identities, have caused widespread mental health problems.

The Red Cross will provide vital healthcare to displaced communities, including:

  • primary healthcare services
  • psychosocial and mental health support
  • nutritious food for vulnerable groups
  • raising awareness and knowledge of disease prevention


Access to clean water

For people in East Africa who had to flee their homes and those in refugee settlements, access to clean and safe water is limited.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will work with communities to:

  • provide people with safe access to drinking water
  • provide water treatment and storage kits to improve hygiene facilities
  • build washing stations and provide hand sanitiser and soap


Being prepared

The conflict in Northern Ethiopia is making people even more vulnerable to events such as climate change. and they've already had to deal with so much.

As more people flee their homes, resources in the region will soon disappear. The Red Cross is finding ways to strengthen resilience in communities across East Africa by:

  • preparing people against the effects of armed fighting
  • working with local communities to advocate for peace and reconciliation

Contact us for more information