East Africa faces a drought this growing season after two consecutive failed growing seasons. Growing food insecurity in Africa poses a threat to the younger residents of the area. Disease, child marriages and malnutrition spread as the drought continues. Organizations such as UNICEF and USAID work daily to provide resources to the Horn of Africa to prevent deaths.
Drought in the Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa contains residents of Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea and other countries on the East African Peninsula. UNICEF reported that 2022 marks the third failed rain and farming season in the Horn of Africa. As the drought ravages this section of Africa, a lack of water and crops spreads diseases and worsens malnutrition in children. UNICEF estimates that 1.7 million children need treatment for severe acute malnutrition and could reach 2 million in a matter of weeks without rain in their region.
Rising Food Prices in International Market
Russia invaded Ukraine in mid-February and offset the foreign food market. The invasion of Ukraine concurrently arose at the start of various countries’ growing seasons. Food prices on the international market have soared in this time to prices that exacerbated food insecurity in Africa. During a typical year, other countries would rely on their own crops during this economic fall, but the drought has decimated the essential crops needed to feed families.
Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe and provides wheat supplies to the international market. According to The New Humanitarian, farmers did not plant as many fields due to the invasion. The economy struggles as ports close and they can no longer export to developing nations such as those located in the Horn of Africa.
Solutions to Food Insecurity
It is now up to governments to intervene as food insecurity in Africa worsens. Help with imports, agricultural techniques during droughts and food for families are all necessary to combat the effects of the international market and drought on food insecurity. UNICEF provides Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to treat children suffering from malnutrition. These supplies prevent wasting in children. Wasting has a high risk of death since the children are low weight compared to their height. RUTF helps children gain weight quickly with high nutritional value and is consumable directly from a packet. “Between 2017 and 2021, UNICEF procured some 2 million cartons for South Sudan,” UNICEF stated. As the drought continues, parents in the Horn of Africa debate how to save their children from malnutrition.
UNICEF partners with local governments as the drought takes students out of school and into child marriages. Parents exchange their kids in hopes their children receive food through the union, Forbes reported. They believe that in their married state the children will avoid wasting. UNICEF’s programs assist mothers to measure their children’s Mid-Upper Arm Circumference to gauge their level of malnutrition. Prevention of child marriages and assisting mothers with malnourished children are crucial to UNICEF. They advocate for funding and policies on a national level to provide help with food insecurity in Africa as the drought continues and the international market’s prices rise.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides aid during the drought. It donated $161 million to the Horn of Africa in 2022 and called for new donors to assist as the drought and rising food prices impede the lives of families and children. This money supports agriculture and livestock, clean drinking water, medical supplies and nutrition assistance for malnourished children.
The conflict between Ukraine and Russia increases food prices and strains Africa’s imports. Preventing food insecurity in Africa requires additional funding and policies. Children face the threat of starvation the hardest and need life-saving RUTFs and aid.
– Sara Sweitzer