Catholic Aid Agencies Join Call for Action against Hunger Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Credit: Trócaire

The official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales (CAFOD), the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the German Catholic Bishops' Organization for Development Cooperation (Misereor) are on the list of 22 humanitarian and development agencies that are calling for immediate action to address the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa countries.

In a set of demands issued on Tuesday, September 27, the nongovernmental organizations want governments in the Eastern African countries experiencing drought and hunger, as well as the international community to act fast to tame the crisis, which they say has been forgotten and is now “building to be a shameful blot” ever recorded.

“We, the leadership of Non-Governmental organizations, including those working for development, humanitarian and faith-based organizations, have gathered here to express our profound concern regarding the forgotten humanitarian crisis engulfing the Horn of African countries, which is building to be a shameful blot in the recorded history of human civilization,” the organizations say.

They add, “Expressing our solidarity with the Anglican and Catholic Bishops, we are constrained by words to express the distress with which lactating mothers, the elderly, the disabled and children are finding themselves due to the phenomenon that is not accidental, nor instant.”

“We are staring at a devastating climate-fueled catastrophe of immeasurable proportions which has been building over years, while not enough action has been taken following the early warnings of the imminent humanitarian disaster projected by climate change experts and civil society,” the organizations say in their collective statement shared with ACI Africa.


Others who appended their signatures on the statement are ActionAid International Kenya (AAIK), Action Against Hunger (AAH), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Kenya, African Youth Commission (AYC), the All Africa Conferences of Churches (AACC), and the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF).

Christian Aid, the ASAL Humanitarian Network (AHN), Cordaid, Helen Keller Foundation, HelpAge, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Plan International, the International Aid Services Kenya, International Alert and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) also appended their signatures.

Others were SOS Children’s Home, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), and World Resources Institute (WRI).

In their statement, the humanitarian and development organizations say they find it alarming that at least 36.1 million people in the Horn of Africa are now being affected by the drought, which began in October 2020.

They say that the figure represents a significant increase from July 2022 when an estimated 19.4 million people were affected by the climate change-motivated drought in the region. 

More in Africa

The statistics they provide indicate that 24.1 million people in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia, and 4.2 million in Kenya are pushed to the edge of access to food and water.

The current figure, the civil society groups say, “represents a significant growth in climate and humanitarian vulnerability of communities across the three states.”

“Across the three states, a minimum of 20.5 million people are already waking each day to high levels of acute food insecurity and rising malnutrition,” they say, adding that the figure could rise to between 23 and 26 million by February 2023, according to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group.

“We are alarmed by the high levels of malnutrition, also affecting young people whose plight is oftentimes forgotten,” the organizations say, and express concern that about 4.6 million children and 986,100 pregnant and lactating women in the region are acutely malnourished in the drought-affected areas.

They provide statistics that further indicate that a total of 1.3 million children are acutely malnourished and that hundreds have already died in nutrition centers distributed across the region.


Additionally, more than 16.2 million people cannot access enough water for drinking, cooking and cleaning, including 8.2 million in Ethiopia, 3.9 million in Somalia and 4.1 million in Kenya, the civil society actors say.

“Many water points have dried up or diminished in quality, heightening the risk of water-borne diseases and increasing the risk of skin and eye infections as families are forced to ration their water use and prioritize drinking and cooking over hygiene,” they say.

The non-governmental organizations express regret that early signs of drought and hunger have been ignored by those who had the capacity to stem them. 

“Not that we didn’t see this coming, sadly,” they say, and explain, “Scientists have repeatedly warned of insufficient rainfall and prolonged drought, mostly attributed to the changing climate. The meteorological agencies have accurately predicted that rainfall would not be enough.”

The organizations decry the inaction of global leaders who they say “continue to drag their feet when it comes to honoring climate financing pledges.”

(Story continues below)

They note that the crisis is happening at a time when the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the body which they say is expected to ease what they term as bureaucracy associated with the World Bank and other financial institutions, “has turned out to be another nightmare in disbursing money meant for emergencies like the one witnessed in the Horn of Africa.”

“For a multilateral institution that was meant to be easily accessible, and quicker in response, it has been painfully slow for organizations to access the funds to ensure urgent adaptation interventions,” the organizations say in their collective statement in reference to GCF.

They add, “The people from the Horn of Africa can apply for funds and die, become forgotten and their next generation will wait long to receive the money, which is meant for urgent adaptation intervention.”

In their set of demands to the Horn of Africa governments, the organizations call on African heads of states to suspend all other development priorities and divert the national budget and human resources.

They say that at the moment, national budgets should prioritize providing food and nutrition assistance, water for domestic use as well as nutrition gardens supported through expanding drilling and rehabilitation of boreholes.

Governments in the African countries that continue to be ravished by hunger should also provide transparency and accountability in the distribution of relief assistance, and support humanitarian organizations for relief distribution.

Additionally, they should ensure all relief assistance and distribution efforts are conflict sensitive, gender responsive and inclusive, the humanitarian organizations say.

These governments should also lay out long-term adaptation and resilient and recovery strategies, including diversification of livelihood options of communities, such as smallholder irrigation systems and promotion of off-farm income generating activities.

Climate change-related funds, on their part, should prioritize the emergency response in the Horn of Africa to address drought, food, water, disease outbreaks and the survival needs of children, women and communities facing the crisis, the organizations have said in their set of demands. 

The entities further call on donors, on their part, to make available resources to local, national and international organizations to protect and assist those affected and “staring at famine” in East and Horn of Africa countries.

To strengthen efforts by the Horn of Africa governments to save lives now, and give a lifeline to millions on the frontline of the hunger crisis, the humanitarian organizations appeal to the G7, G20, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and all private creditors to suspend all debt repayments due in 2022 and 2023, and the same invested to responding to the worsening humanitarian crisis.

“Prioritization of distribution of funds should be reviewed to stop hunger-related loss of lives every minute and to ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, including women, girls, the elderly and the sick,” they say.

The organizations add that interventions such as school meals must be expanded to ensure all children remain in school, and girls are protected from all harmful practices including   early, child and forced marriages, sexual and gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation.

In a list of other demands to the international community, the civil society organizations want countries to fast-track climate actions, including delivering climate finance for adaptation to African countries through grants.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.