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4th Feb 2023

Africa aid dilemma of helping starving over the hungry

  • Crops in Ukraine have been laid to waste by Russian artillery (Photo: Roman Ratushnyi)
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EU officials are warning of devastating impacts of a sustained drought hitting the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, as humanitarian workers face a dilemma of having to choose to help the starving over the hungry.

Some 85 million people spread throughout the two regions are currently in a food crisis that is set to continue into next year. The issue has alarmed Andrea Koulaimah, a European Commission official who works in its development branch, ECHO.

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On Tuesday (30 August), she told MEPs aid workers are having to face the difficult dilemma of prioritising aid to the starving over aid to the hungry.

"Those are very difficult choices that unfortunately have to be made because of the lack of resources," she said, noting four failed rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa.

"But we are also seeing that the fifth failing rainy season is coming, and that would be unprecedented," she added.

The drought is already affecting 36.1 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Climate change, conflict, drought, the socio-economic impact of Covid, and the spike in energy and grain prices are among the drivers now plunging millions of people into hunger.

Conflict in northern Ethiopia has also reignited, amid reports that an airstrike hit a kindergarten in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region.

Meanwhile, the price of food across east Africa has increased by some 53 percent.

That spike followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, further aggravating food insecurity in both regions. Some relief came in August when a 23,000 tonne shipment of Ukrainian wheat on a UN-chartered vessel left Ukraine for Djibouti. The shipment will be followed by another 7,000 tonnes and transported to Ethiopia.

Similar comments were made by Leonard Mizzi , another commission official.

"Clearly the security and economic situation risks further deteriorating in both regions," he told MEPs at the same event.

"It's not only a food issue, it's a fuel issue, and it's a food price inflation issue," he said.

Both views were backed by Benoit Munsch, who oversees the Horn of Africa for Care, an NGO. He said the drought in the Horn of Africa could turn out to be the worst in decades.

"We are already speaking about the fifth failed rainy season in October," he said.

Some €2.5bn was pledged for the Sahel in April, of which €1bn came from the EU. Another €1.3bn was pledged for the Horn of Africa, also in April. Of that, the EU pledged €633m.

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Disruption in exports of grain and fertilisers as a consequence of the Ukraine war is triggering a "worrying" situation for the continent hosting 282 million undernourished people, African Union president Macky Sall told EU leaders at the summit.

EU urged to grow more wheat to avert food crisis

European agriculture ministers have called for higher domestic farm output, amid food security worries, and a looming food crisis in Africa. Many African countries, eg Benin, Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar, and Burundi, are almost entirely, or exclusively, dependent on Ukrainian grain.

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