East Africa: thousands could die if the world does not act

Millions of children are at risk of extreme hunger across South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Just six years after famine in Somalia claimed a quarter of a million lives, the region is at risk once more. In parts of South Sudan, a state of famine has already been declared.

Back-to-back droughts, failed rains and war have already left hundreds of thousands of children acutely malnourished.

We know what will happen this summer if we do not act now. A quarter of a million children and adults died last time. Thousands could die again if the world does not act.

Early warning signs

At just three months old, baby Abshir is already suffering from malnutrition. (Photo: Tom Pilston/Save the Children.)
Somalia: At just three months old, baby Abshir* is already suffering from malnutrition. Photo: Tom Pilston/Save the Children.

Famine has been declared in parts South Sudan – the first to be announced anywhere in the world for six years.

The same fate looms over Somalia as severe food and water shortages have killed livestock, destroyed livelihoods, and driven families from their homes.

The drought is forcing children in Ethiopia to drop out of school, leaving them at risk of early marriage and forced migration. And, in Kenya, the number of people in need of emergency assistance has more than doubled in the last three months, with hunger levels expected to worsen in the coming months.

2011 was the last time we saw a major crisis like this in the Horn of Africa.

Dead camel in Puntland, Somalia
A dead camel lies in the arid landscape of East of Qardho in the Puntland region of Somalia. Credit: Tom Pilston/Save the Children.

The famine in 2011 claimed a quarter of a million lives in Somalia – 130,000 of them children under five years old.

With the drought intensifying and spring rains set to fail once again, the tragedy of 2011 looks set to repeat itself without a massive and immediate scale-up by international communities.

While we did a lot to try and save lives back in 2011, the international community did not act fast enough. We could have saved so many more lives.

We’ve been here before and we know what to do

Three-month old twins Abshir* [held in arms, far back] and Asad* [on bed] are cared for by their grandmother at the stablisation unit at Garowe General Hospital in Puntland. Both are suffering from malnutrition-related complications.
The worst impacts of the disaster can be prevented. We can help to reduce the needless suffering of thousands, and our teams are working across East Africa to tackle the worst effects of the drought.

We’ve deployed Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit – saving lives in places such as Somalia.

We’re treating children who are malnourished, distributing cash transfers and food vouchers, and transporting water to drought-hit communities. We’re also running mobile health clinics and supporting families who have had to leave their homes.

We can’t prevent famines from happening, but if we move quickly – we can prevent widespread loss of life.

Please donate to our East Africa Food Crisis Appeal.



Save the Children is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis, all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.


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  • Hi Judith, thank you very much for getting in touch. I have just checked and can see that your Gift Aid is on our records! I am going to delete your comment now, as it is a public platform and your address is on it. With best wishes,