Famine and hunger in East Africa: facts and images

Mar 27, 2017
10-Minute Read
In February, UN agencies declared a famine in parts of South Sudan. They estimated that 100,000 people faced immediate threat of starvation. They also raised a serious alarm that other regions in Africa are at risk of famine.

World Vision has declared a Category III Hunger Crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, where some 22 million people face severe food shortages. We are on the ground, working with the people most affected. Here, we share some of their stories. All images: World Vision staff.

A man feeds water to a child who is sick and being treated for severe malnutrition in East Africa..
"Famine" is a word rarely and cautiously used by the international aid community. It is reserved for the very gravest of human suffering, where a great number of people are dying. Ali, 9, takes water from his father. He is recovering after being rushed to the hospital, unconscious from dehydration and lack of nutrition.

A little baby gets her upper arm measured by a medical professional at a clinic to determine whether she's malnourished.
A young child is screened for malnutrition at a World Vision outpatient nutrition program in Juba, South Sudan. The red indicates severe acute malnutrition. Unfortunately, her situation is becoming more common. A staggering 42 percent of the South Sudanese population—4.7 million people—are on the brink of starvation according to UN estimates.

Jerry cans are lined up on the ground in a village and people stand around them.
Climate is a factor in the current crisis. A particularly strong El Nino effect on top of rain failures for three years has had a devastating impact on parts of East Africa. Community members line up jerry cans the night before to collect precious water from a World Vision solar powered borehole well in Kenya.

A man crouches near the carcass of his livestock, that starved to death in Somalia.
People who rely on subsistence farming for a living are hit hard by changing climates. Said is a farmer in Somalia. His livelihood is based on his goat herd, many of which have died. Said’s biggest worry? “If the goats keep dying, I am afraid my children will be next.”

A woman bends down and places a hand on her dead farm animal's body, in Somalia. She is surrounded by a dry, dust landscape.
There are long-term impacts. Like many Somalians, Hawo is a pastoralist; her assets—and her family’s income— are reliant on her herd of goats and camels. Drought forced Hawo off her land, and by the time she reached the closest emergency water supply, only a few animals had survived. Hawo despairs for her family's future.

Tents line the dry dusty ground in this makeshift settlement of 200 homes in Somalia.
Conflict and the failure of governments to protect their citizens, are at the root of this crisis. Makeshift shelters are home in this “settlement” of 200 households in Somalia. More than 3 million people are refugees in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

A family leaves a food distribution with emergency rations on the back of the horse and cart.
A family leaves with supplies from a food distribution in the Upper Nile region of South Sudan. Unfortunately, World Vision had to recently suspend emergency operations in the area due to fierce fighting. The people who had settled there were uprooted yet again.

A mom holds her baby son on her hip in Somalia.
Unimaginable tragedy: Ibado Bishar buried two of her children by the roadside, her 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, both of whom fell ill during their journey to get medical help in Baidoa, Somalia. She arrived with her 11-month-old son.

In Somalia, school children's lessons are paused while they wait for the water truck to arrive.
Another impact of the crisis is children missing school. In Somalia, lessons are paused while everyone waits for the water truck. In Kenya and Ethiopia, and Somalia, an estimated 8.8 million children have had their education affected.

An elderly woman holds two young children in her lap in east Africa.
Past development efforts have helped create some resilience in the current conditions. But the combination of climate shocks, conflict and poor governance is formidable. To date, the response in Canada and around the world has not matched the growing crisis. World Vision hopes to raise $92 million to help more than 22 million people most affected.

A World Vision humanitarian worker hands emergency items to a woman at a relief distribution in Somalia.
World Vision works with other agencies to provide immediate relief and recovery assistance. Here, Fatuma Hilal, 82, arrives at a distribution point in Somalia to receive her portion of food, distributed by World Vision and the World Food Programme.