Millions are on the brink of starvation in east Africa. We must act fast

When I saw the East Africa Crisis Appeal launched recently across our screens by the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), my thoughts returned to a man I met when I visited Ethiopia with ActionAid in 2005.

Sitting in a small settlement about four hours south of the capital, Addis Ababa, he spoke without emotion about the 1984 famine. “In 1984 one third of this community died … We ate soil mixed with dirty water. All the cattle died. We couldn’t feed our children. People just walked, they knew not where. Many died on the road and were left unburied.”

Today the images and stories coming out of Ethiopia and its neighbours in east Africa are similarly heartbreaking. In 2017, 16 million people are on the brink of starvation and desperately in need of food, water and medical treatment. Drought and conflict mean that people are already dying in South Sudan and Somalia. In Kenya, the government has declared a national emergency and Ethiopia is battling a new wave of drought following the strongest El Niño on record.


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