Africa food crisis: 146 million people are going hungry
Soaring food prices, conflict and climate change are plunging parts of Africa into a severe and enduring food crisis, with millions of people in Africa facing extreme hunger
Agnes, with her son Jacob in Taita Taveta, Kenya. Her husband was injured and lost his job just before she gave birth. The Red Cross is working with mothers’ groups to provide food and medicine for their children
Last updated 20 December 2022
Learn how extreme hunger is affecting people across Africa
What are the causes of extreme hunger in Africa?
Communities across Africa including Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Somalia are facing the worst food crisis seen in 40 years. It’s the worst crisis in decades – yet it’s only just hitting the headlines.
Global factors such as ongoing climate change in Africa, the escalating conflict in Ukraine, inflation around the world, and a surge in global food prices have caused devastating ripples across the globe.
But this extreme hunger is hitting great swathes of Africa in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel particularly hard. In Somalia alone, 7 million people are on the brink of famine, In the Baidoa and Burhakaba districts, growing numbers of children are already dying.
We are fast approaching a catastrophic situation. The IPC, which assesses hunger levels worldwide has predicted that parts of Somalia will reach famine levels between March and April 2023.
That means people will be at breaking point, having exhausted every avenue to try and feed their families.
Parents are being forced to skip meals so that their children can eat – sometimes not eating for days themselves. Children are being taken out of school to work to earn money or to be sent to beg in nearby towns. We’ve heard tragic stories of families being forced to leave their homes to find food, and having to leave elderly loved ones behind because they are too weak to face the long journey on foot to an unknown destination.
No one should be forced into making decisions like these. We know there is a way forward. These are resilient communities, but after back-to-back emergencies, their fortitude is fading. According to the UN, 46 million people in Africa experienced hunger in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic – that’s the highest share of any continent in the world.
Other factors, such as year-on-year droughts in the horn of Africa, locust storms destroying crops, internal conflict in Ethiopia, and floods and droughts across the Sahel were already having a devastating impact on people’s lives, families, health, and livelihoods.
Communities in Africa face a race against the clock
146 million – the daily existence behind that number is bleak. But there is hope. In 2017, we pulled together to help avert catastrophe in the region, saving lives. Today, it’s a race against the clock. We will not stop supporting communities and people in Africa, but we cannot do this alone.
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7 million people in Somalia are going hungry. Millions of children in Baidoa face malnutrition, and growing numbers are dying.
Extreme hunger in Africa: How the drought is affecting communities
The daily reality for people is heartbreaking. 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. But every morning families are still waking up to extreme hunger.
Lack of access to food in parts of Somalia has recently reached catastrophic levels with an estimated 7 million people experiencing crises or worse. This is expected to deteriorate further and faster between June and September if food assistance is not scaled up and sustained.
In Nigeria alone, an overwhelming 19.5 million people don’t have enough to eat. Across the continent, hunger is contributing to 45% of children’s deaths.
We can help stop the situation from getting worse. But we need to act now.
Map of Africa: communities in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya are facing a deep and enduring extreme hunger crisis.
A way forward: how the Red Cross is helping people in Africa facing extreme hunger
Red Cross teams are working on the ground across the continent, supporting people suffering from hunger, as they don’t have enough of the food they need. We’re also helping communities who have been hit hardest with water, food, immediate financial help, nutrition services, and healthcare.
We continue to help people adapt to the effects of climate change in Africa and build their long-term resilience to cope.
By providing tools, financial help, and vital skills and training, we can help make sure that families aren’t pushed to the crisis point of extreme hunger.
Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, says that with a concerted and meaningful international and financial response, governments can help avert an otherwise certain catastrophe.
“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 with 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.
Carolyne visits one of the new tanks installed by the Red Cross to collect water for her family in Kenya, enduring ongoing drought in Africa
Over 7 million people are struggling without the food they need in Somalia.
The Somalian Red Crescent has supported around 200,000 families in their drought response. Through mobile health clinics in the most affected areas and financial assistance to buy food and essential items, they have been supporting the people most affected by extreme hunger in Somalia.
They are also providing clean water and immunizations to prevent the spread of disease amongst the worst affected areas, and are scaling up to reach 560,000 more people.
Leerto, 21, with her one-year-old son at the ICU wing of the stabilization center, where severely acute malnourished children are treated.
In North-eastern Kenya
The Kenyan Red Cross has now reached more than 520,000 people as part of its drought response so far and is working to reach 500,000 more people experiencing extreme hunger in the worst-affected communities in Africa.
They are providing food, safe and clean drinking water as well as health support and livestock support, alongside financial assistance.
Nigerian Red Cross teams work with communities in Nassarawa State, helping people living with extreme hunger and drought in Africa.
The Nigerian Red Cross is one of the lead responders in the country, supporting people affected by the extreme hunger 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’re also supporting people in Africa with health services such as water and sanitation support.
Afrobeats star, Omah Lay, calls on the world to wake up to the Africa Food Crisis.
In November, Omah Lay’s homeland was devastated by the worst floods the country has ever seen. The impact on Nigerian people already facing a grinding food crisis has been catastrophic.
The Afrobeats star urges the world to wake up and take action.
The Ethiopian Red Cross has been supporting people in Africa affected by the extreme hunger crisis, helping them to meet their basic needs.
They are providing financial assistance and food, farm tools, seeds, and fertilizer to support people to maintain their livelihoods, alongside psychosocial support and protection services.
They are scaling up their response to support an additional 500,000 people in the most affected communities.
In the Sahel
Communities across the Sahel are facing an emergency, with communities in Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina struggling without the food they need. Many were already dealing with the most extreme crisis but, now drought, the Covid-19 pandemic, and soaring food prices are only making the situation worse.
The British Red Cross is working at regional, national, and local levels across the Sahel. We have set up the Sahel Livelihoods program to build resilience across communities and to help them prepare for future crises. Locally, we are helping people facing hunger with the Mothers’ Club, groups of women who inform the community about health, hygiene, and other issues.
More reading about the extreme hunger crisis in Africa
- What is food insecurity?
- Brave mothers of the Sahel: how Mothers’ Clubs are changing communities for the better
- Seeing mothers and babies starving was a big shock