By Willy Ngumbi

Over 50 million people are expected to face high acute food insecurity levels in 2022 across Eastern Africa according to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Regional Focus On Food Crisis.

According to the Integrated Food Security Classification(IPC) phases, food insecurity levels are expected to be high above the third phase (crisis, emergency or catastrophe) in seven IGAD countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda).

With the current situation of over 50 million people expected to face high acute food insecurity, marks a dramatic increase from last year where people who suffered from high levels of acute food insecurity were recorded to be 42 million.

Last year, the IGAD region accounted for nearly 22% of the global number of people in the second phase or above of IPC phases, with an estimated 10 million children under the age of five suffering from acute malnutrition. In addition, 24% of the world’s 51 million internally displaced people were also from IGAD countries, mainly Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan are facing the largest food crises in the region while 300,000 people are projected to face catastrophe in Somalia and South Sudan, with a risk of famine occurring in eight areas of Somalia through September in the event of widespread crop and livestock production failures, spiraling food costs, and in the absence of scaled-up humanitarian assistance.

“Our region has been hit like never before, says Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary of IGAD. “The combination of climate extremes, conflict, and macroeconomic challenges makes it almost impossible for our otherwise very resilient communities to sustain multiple shocks. The figures we are releasing today are heartbreaking, and I’m very worried they could increase even more as the outlook for the October to December rainy season is bleak.”

“There is a need for us to initiate a paradigm shift towards layering and integrating short-term responses with long-term actions aimed at addressing the root causes of food crises in our region. In addition, we must work together in the spirit of multilateralism and global unity to build resilient food systems and restore peace, security and stability in the IGAD region and beyond.”

According to IGAD’s Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) latest forecast this is the fifth consecutive failed rainy season across the region, with the latest long-term forecasts for this yea r(October–December) rainfall season indicating an increased chance of below-average rains.

Climate change and La Niña- a climate pattern that describes the cooling of surface ocean waters along the tropical west coast of south America, have caused an unmatched multi-season drought punctuated by one of the worst March-to-May rains in 70 years.

“Conflict, climate extremes, economic shocks, rising costs and now the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on food and energy prices are pushing millions towards starvation in Eastern Africa,” says Michael Dunford, the World Food Programme’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

“Sadly, there is a very real risk of famine in the region, and we must do everything possible to prevent this from happening. At the same time, together we must start building the capacity to prepare and respond to future shocks which are increasingly inevitable because of a changing climate.

Climate change makes the people vulnerable to some of the worst drought caused humanitarian crisis such as persistent food and nutrition insecurity, displacement which in turn leads to conflict among people and even wildlife as well as economic hardships.

The nutrition situation across the IGAD region remains of grave concern, particularly in Ethiopia, the Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan and northern Kenya.

Governments and development partners have commendably maintained scaled-up emergency nutrition response interventions in several countries. However, additional funding is required to sustain the response and help prevent further deterioration.