Failing rains, poor harvests and increasing insecurity in recent months are pushing even more people to the brink of hunger and starvation across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Islamic Relief warned on Monday.
To meet the growing needs, the UK-based international aid organisation is doubling its emergency appeal for funds to address the current unprecedented hunger crisis to £20 million GBP.
The original appeal for £10 million, launched and met in late 2021, has helped to bring essential supplies like flour, sugar, rice and cooking oil to tens of thousands of people in the worst-affected countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia and South Sudan. It has also brought emergency water supplies to people and farmers desperate to keep their animals alive.
Affan Cheema, Islamic Relief Worldwide’s Director of International Programmes said:
“Millions more people are going hungry today than this time last year and the situation is only getting worse. The rains we hoped for in the Horn of Africa did not come in January and Afghanistan is on the verge of a catastrophic famine. International support is urgently needed, as we are fast running out of time to save lives.”
“Without an unprecedented scale up, we fear that millions of lives in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be at risk. Every day the needs are growing and our teams are seeing the lines for emergency food assistance swell in towns and villages across a truly worrying number of countries.”
More than 43 million people in 38 countries across the globe are now at risk of falling into famine and are already in emergency levels of hunger. They face the prospect of starvation unless they receive immediate life-saving support.
Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen are the countries with the highest levels of hunger. However, many other countries where Islamic Relief also works – such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan – are also in crisis.
Afzal Sadat, programme coordinator for Islamic Relief in Afghanistan, said:
“Afghanistan is on the brink of a catastrophic famine and we, as humanitarian workers, are seeing signs of this every day. Last week I met a mother with four children. She was crying out to my team: “If you can feed my children please take them; I have nothing to give them. And they will die.
“People are not only desperately hungry; they are freezing. They have no fire wood, charcoal or gas to heat their homes and many are literally dying of cold, especially children. Families are putting hot water in plastic bags and putting them under the blankets, if they have blankets, before their children go to bed.”
Parts of the Horn of Africa are suffering their lowest rainfall in more than 40 years.
Affan Cheema adds: “This is the first time since the famine in the 80s in the Horn of Africa that there have been three consecutive dry seasons. In Somalia, which has been hardest hit, up to 80 per cent of the country is experiencing drought.”
Thousands of farmers and pastoralists have been forced to leave their homes as water shortages kill their livestock and ruin their harvests. Many families walked for days to find pasture and children died of hunger and thirst along the way. Thousands are now living in camps for the internally displaced.
Yaroy Amin Abdirizak (54) fled famine in Dinsor district of the Bay Region with her husband and eight children. They are now living in a displaced camp in Bardhere district in the Gedo region.
She explained: “We walked here for three days and many children died on the way. We have not eaten anything all day and my children are desperately hungry. We are hopeless. We need urgent help from humanitarian aid agencies.
“For the last three days, approximately ten children died in the camp because of disease and starvation. We are on the verge of death and need immediate support.”
Shukri Mohamud, Programmme Manager for Islamic Relief Somalia, adds:
“Our teams are bracing for outbreaks of malaria and other diseases if the situation does not improve immediately. To make matters worse, as the humanitarian crisis has spiralled, the security situation has deteriorated.”
Islamic Relief began working in Somalia in 2006. During the current emergency the organisation is providing impoverished families with cash so they can buy food and stimulate local markets, distributing animal feed to keep livestock healthy, and repairing water supplies and improving them by installing solar panels.
“Through the appeal, Islamic Relief will provide food, cash, water and other essential aid to 10 countries over the next three months. In Ethiopia we are supporting health workers to care for severely malnourished children. In Afghanistan we have already distributed packs of food, wheat seeds and animal fodder to more than 20,000 families, and we aim to almost triple this,” the organization said.
It further said “In Kenya, where we have so far vaccinated almost 200,000 livestock against disease, we will repair water supplies for more than 12,000 people and provide farmers with drought-tolerant seeds. In Niger we are training farmers on climate-smart agriculture and distributing food vouchers.”