NAIROBI – Millions of people in the Horn of Africa are trapped in a hunger emergency as the region lurches from crisis to crisis: the longest drought in recorded history has given way to rains and flash flooding, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned today. Food and energy prices remain stubbornly high and the impact of the conflict in Sudan reverberates around the region.

“Conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks: the Horn of Africa region is facing multiple crises simultaneously. After five consecutive failed rainy seasons, flooding has replaced drought, killing livestock, damaging farmland, and further shattering livelihoods,” said Michael Dunford, WFP Regional Director for Eastern Africa. “And now the outbreak of conflict in Sudan is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.”

When the region’s long-awaited rains arrived in March, they should have brought some relief. But instead, flash flooding inundated homes and farmland, washed away livestock, and closed schools and health facilities. Yet more people were forced from their homes: 219,000 people in southern Somalia, where 22 people were also killed.

The last three years of drought has left more than 23 million people across parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia facing severe hunger. Mortality and malnutrition rates remain unacceptably high. Consecutive failed harvests and high transport costs have pushed food prices far beyond the reach of millions in the region. A food basket in Eastern Africa in March 2023 cost 40 percent more than a year ago. In Ethiopia, fuel prices have almost doubled in a year.

It will take years for the region to recover, and humanitarian assistance is a lifeline. Yet limited humanitarian resources are being stretched further still by the conflict in Sudan, which has sent over 250,000 people fleeing into neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and South Sudan where food insecurity is already desperately high.

Last year, WFP and partners launched a rapid scale up of life-saving assistance in drought-hit Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia which helped to keep famine at bay in Somalia. But now WFP is facing a funding crunch and is being forced to scale back assistance.

“WFP’s rapid expansion of life-saving assistance helped prevent famine in Somalia in 2022. But despite the emergency being far from over, funding shortfalls are already forcing us to reduce assistance to those who still desperately need it. Without sustainable funding for both emergency and climate adaptation solutions, the next climate crisis could bring the region back to the brink of famine,” said Dunford.

By the end of 2022, WFP was distributing food assistance to a record 4.7 million people in Somalia. But in April, funding shortfalls forced WFP to reduce this to 3 million people. Without additional funds, WFP will have to further reduce the emergency food assistance caseload in Somalia to just 1.8 million by July. This means that almost 3 million people will not receive support, despite their continuing needs.

WFP urgently requires US$810 million over the next six months to keep life-saving assistance going and invest in long-term resilience in the Horn of Africa.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.