Over 7 million people across six East African countries are at the cusp of starvation as communities have faced existential threats from violence, flooding, the pandemic and locust infestation, the evangelical humanitarian organization World Vision has warned.
According to the charity, which operates in nearly 100 countries, thousands of children could face death or long-term health consequences if the international community does not respond quickly to East Africa’s worsening crisis.
Debebe Dawit, program manager for World Vision’s humanitarian emergency affairs team, recently visited Ethiopia and saw firsthand the effects of poverty in the East African country. He said the situation is “severe.”
“The situation is very severe in East Africa, and particularly Ethiopia. Over 2 million people are in need of food assistance,” Dawit told The Christian Post in a Thursday interview. “Among conflict, COVID-19, flooding, locust infestation, all these are adding [an] additional burden to the community.”
Before the pandemic began, several countries in East Africa faced a widespread desert locust infestation that impacted hundreds of thousands of hectares and damaged croplands and pastures.
Later in 2020, large-scale floods destroyed crops that were ready to harvest, which impacted the food supply for 4 million people in the region, World Vision reports.
Matters have also been complicated by military conflicts — most recently the Tigray conflict — and the rise of Islamic extremism.
To address the starvation and poverty crisis in East Africa, World Vision launched a multi-country emergency response for Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. The goal is to reach 2.4 million people, which includes 490,000 children.
Lack of funding is the key element that prevents a faster response.
“At the end of the day, it will come [down] to resources,” Dawit acknowledged.
World Vision’s intervention is primarily focused on the immediate needs of the children, he said.
“The long-term effect of malnutrition especially hinders a child’s development and ability to reach their “God-given potential,” World Vision CEO and President Edgar Sandoval Sr. said in a statement.
“It’s heart-breaking that the lives of millions of children in East Africa are at risk due to a perfect storm of conflict, changing or unpredictable weather patterns, and the aftershocks of COVID-19.”