More than 16 million people in East Africa, in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, are in urgent need of food, following a drought that has lasted for many months. In parts of South Sudan, where the situation has been seriously exacerbated by conflict, the UN has declared famine – the first time this has happened for six years. Millions of families are facing starvation, and immediate action is needed to stop the crisis from worsening.
The UK government has promised to match UK donations from the public up to £5 million, and the Queen has made a personal donation to support the appeal. Olympic champion Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia and moved to the UK aged 8, was recently made Ambassador for Save The Children and has issued an urgent plea for donations.
The following links can help you explore this issue in class, and ask your pupils to consider ways in which they, as a class, can help and make a difference.
The British Red Cross East Africa facing hunger web page provides thoughtful activities to develop understanding, such as discussing the effect of images of hunger, and exploring the choices people have when food goes short.
CAFOD has produced a page of East Africa Crisis resources for secondary schools, including the appeal video below, as well as an assembly, prayers, and a fundraising poster. They also have a page of resources about the crisis for primary schools. Their Emergency! resource explains how aid agencies like CAFOD respond in emergencies. They also have a page explaining what is happening in the region and how CAFOD is helping.
Oxfam has an informative page on the East Africa Crisis Appeal. It explains the situation in detail, and also has a photo slideshow showing what Oxfam is doing to respond.
ActionAid are encouraging schools to ‘Fill a bottle’ with cash to donate to the appeal. Visit their web page to sign up and download resources exploring the issue of drought in East Africa – including their Drought 360° resource. There is also a photo-blog exploring the situation in Somaliland, especially the impact it is having on women and girls.
First News has a ‘child-friendly’ report and video clip: East Africa Famine
Goal 2 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is Zero Hunger, which aims by 2030 to: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Read more about this Goal, and find teaching resources exploring the issue of hunger
What is famine?
The UN will only declare a famine under certain circumstances:
- At least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope
- Acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%
- The death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons
The declaration of a famine carries no binding obligations on the UN or member states, but serves to focus global attention on the problem.
This BBC article, Why are there still famines? explores what makes a famine, and what can be done. It makes it clear that famines are ‘man-made’, often the result of conflict, rather than a ‘natural’ disaster.
For younger readers, BBC Newsround has a useful guide. For older readers, the Guardian asks Famine: what does it really mean and how do aid workers treat it?
What do people do in a famine or drought?
Unlike other emergencies like floods or earthquakes, a famine doesn’t happen suddenly. People will be aware that drought conditions are going to impact on their crops and food supply. They will move to find better growing conditions, or to seek help. Read about one family’s fight to survive a severe drought in Somalia on the British Red Cross website.
Many people from South Sudan, where the situation has been exacerbated by conflict, have fled to neighbouring countries such as Uganda, to the extent that this is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, according to the UN.
Children, especially those under 5, are likely to be the worst hit by food shortages – they burn more energy per weight than adults, and so are less able to withstand hunger. Their parents will do their utmost to get help for them – read the British Red Cross story about how the Kismayo General Hospital stabilisation centre in Somalia is helping.
The Disasters Emergency Committee is a coalition of 13 leading UK aid charities. You can donate to them via their East Africa Emergency Appeal.
The photo at the top of the page shows Bukayo Molu waiting inside a hand dugout well for the water level to slowly rise so that he can fetch the water. © David Mutua, CAFOD/Caritas Marsabit
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