Millions of children facing starvation in East Africa

22 FEBRUARY 2017

Plan International is responding to the food crisis in East Africa which has left over 20 million people in urgent need of support.

Millions of children are facing starvation across East Africa as the food crisis reaches a tipping point.

A spotlight was thrown on the crisis on Monday 20 February when South Sudan declared famine in Unity state. It is the first time in 6 years that a famine has been declared in any part of the world.

20 million urgently need food

Over 20 million people, including millions of children across Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia are in urgent need of food. In South Sudan alone, 4.9 million people (more than 40% of the country’s population) urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.

“This is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters unfolding before our eyes in current times,” said Roland Angerer, Plan International’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Millions of children are facing starvation with many at risk of death. We must act now to save lives.”

We have been working in South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia providing urgent food supplies and lifesaving humanitarian support to children and families.

Girls especially vulnerable

We are extremely concerned about the plight of children caught up in the crisis, especially about the impact on girls who often suffer the worst consequences during disaster situations.

“Boys and girls constitute the majority of displaced populations. We know from experience that girls are the ones who suffer most in these situations,” said Mr Angerer.

We must act now to save lives

“In addition to the lack of food and water, the levels of child trafficking, sexual violence and early marriages tend to rise significantly during times of distress. In previous situations of drought when families struggled to survive, many underage girls were sold into child marriage in exchange for livestock, there is no doubt this will happen again.”

Food crisis worsened by conflict

In many places such as South Sudan, the crisis has been exacerbated by conflict and economic collapse, disproportionately affecting children.

Daniel Muchena, Plan International’s Country Director in South Sudan said “There are hundreds of thousands of people who have either crossed the border into neighbouring countries or have been internally displaced due to violence.”

“Prevailing food insecurity is making the situation worse for children. With little to eat, and their bodies less able to withstand disease, children are at risk of death from malnutrition and diseases, as much as from being caught in the crossfire.”