“Action needed to address drought, famine in Africa”: Caritas Africa to World Leaders

The General Assembly Hall of the UN. Credit: OCHA

Caritas Africa is calling on delegates at the High-Level Roundtable meeting in Geneva from Tuesday, April 26 to take “necessary action” in their response to the humanitarian catastrophe facing millions in Africa.

In the meeting Co-hosted by the European Union and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), delegates are expected to take stock of aid efforts on drought in regions of Africa. 

In a Monday, April 25 statement shared with ACI Africa, Caritas Africa officials invite delegates to challenge major donors to step forward to help millions of people facing drought and famine across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa regions.

“An estimated 15-16 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are in need of immediate food assistance because of the drought,” Caritas Africa officials say in their April 25 statement.

They add, “The drought and famine conditions in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions are impacting worst in rural parts of the affected countries; including on sections of society – such as pastoralists and agro-pastoralists – that have sometimes faced political and social marginalization, and conflict issues.”


The leadership of the development arm of the Catholic Church in Africa says, “Whilst the global media and political spotlight is focused on the crisis in Ukraine, attention to the suffering of people in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped away and support for life-saving aid efforts is woefully inadequate.”

“OCHA has announced 30 million dollars will be allocated from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, but this will leave humanitarian aid efforts still massively underfunded. With the exception of the US Government, other major donors have not yet stepped forward to increase their support”, Caritas officials say.

The officials of the network that brings together national Caritas organizations in 46 sub-Saharan Africa countries further say, “Inadequate global funding for the drought and famine response is compounded by the impacts of the war in Ukraine on the global food supply chain; coming on top of conflict, forced displacement and Covid19 in the affected countries.”

They indicate that “Kenya and Burkina Faso buy 30%, Ethiopia 40% and Somalia 90% of their wheat from Russia or Ukraine. Increases in fuel prices are also impacting food production, with small-scale farmers especially impacted.”

Caritas Africa officials further cite Oxfam report on rising global food prices, which indicates that 3% of the total $6bn United Nations 2022 humanitarian appeal for Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, has been funded to date, whilst Kenya has only secured 11% of its UN flash appeal to date.

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“It is essential that support for the humanitarian response is channeled through national and local institutions that have a presence and trust in these communities, including local faith-based organizations and the Church”, Caritas Africa officials say in their three-page statement.

For these reasons, officials of the Catholic Church entity say they have identified three priorities in dealing with drought and famine: first to address the funding gap; second, to support local leadership of the crisis response; and third to address the underlying causes of famine and support community resilience in the longer-term.

In the April 25 statement, Caritas Africa officials further say that “conflict, environmental degradation, and bad governance systems are amongst the many, context-specific drivers of food insecurity, drought, and famine risk across sub-Saharan Africa, and suggest an emergency meeting to address the impacts of the war in Ukraine.”

“To address the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on global food systems, an emergency meeting of the Committee on World Food Security should be convened to establish the necessary coordination and action plans by governments to mobilize action beyond humanitarian response,” Caritas officials say.

They add, “International humanitarian agencies should also work with national and local institutions during the response to the drought and famine, for example through cash programming, in ways that strengthen national systems, which could then be built on through longer-term social safety nets where possible.”


The officials of the continental entity urge national governments and the international community to support local NGOs and community structures by “identifying, designing, and implementing strategies that strengthen resilience.”

“Local food systems should be supported to have a decentralized capacity to produce and distribute food locally, as well as connections to supply food pantries and other emergency relief organizations that serve marginalized communities,” Caritas Africa officials say.

They note that “these and other methods centered in community-led programming should be at the heart of national and international action to ensure that drought and famine risk are better averted or mitigated in future.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.