Millions of families across East Africa are on the brink of starvation because drought and civil war have hit food supplies. The UN is warning that the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945. With life-saving assistance urgently needed, CAFOD has joined forces with Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to tackle the threat of famine.
The spotlight was thrown on the growing crisis last month when the UN officially declared a state of famine in two areas of Unity State in South Sudan. This means that, among other criteria, more than 30 per cent of children aged under five are suffering from acute malnutrition. Over 100,000 people in these districts have already begun to starve, and a million more are on the brink.
But a much wider area is in acute danger, with the DEC having launched an appeal for four East African countries - South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia where 16 million people face severe hunger.
"We no longer have the 'luxury' of dealing with one crisis at a time," warned Matthew Carter, CAFOD's Director of Humanitarian and Emergencies. "A deadly combination of extreme weather and protracted conflict is creating a humanitarian disaster across the whole region.
"The international humanitarian community will need to wholeheartedly support the life-saving emergency aid work of local and national organisations in these countries."
CAFOD aid workers have seen mothers picking leaves off trees to feed to their children to stave off hunger pangs, and met an old man who had gone blind as a result of starvation. As so often in humanitarian emergencies, it is the women, children and the elderly who are worst affected.
Particularly vulnerable are nomadic and semi-nomadic communities who have never fully recovered from the drought of 2011-12, said Catherine Ogolla, the charity's country representative for Kenya and Uganda. Now their crops have failed, and their livestock are dying.
"It is now critical to reach vulnerable families who have lost everything and no longer have ways of coping," Ogolla said. "Working with the Disasters Emergency Committee will help us scale up our response and reach more people in need."
"CAFOD has been working over the long term with partners in some of the worst-hit areas", said CAFOD Director Chris Bain, "but now we need more support to help communities facing severe hunger. Our common humanity calls on us to take action and respond to the suffering; restoring dignity and hope through the vital aid we can deliver."
The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Plan International UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
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To make a donation to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal visit: www.dec.org.uk