The Future is Equal

The hand-made crisis

The number of people experiencing alarming hunger, severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition has increased to 30 million across north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. Famine has been declared in South Sudan and is likely to be already happening in parts of northeast Nigeria, while Yemen and Somalia are on the brink.

This unprecedented crisis is human-made. Every famine is. It represents either a catastrophic human failure or a political choice.

But, the grim fact that famine is always human-made also means that we have the power to prevent and end it.

Right now…

  • In South Sudan, 4.9 million people are dangerously hungry, including 100,000 already in famine. Oxfam has helped over 600,000 people with food, water and protection. We are now scaling up to address the thousands of lives at risk from deadly hunger.
  • In Yemen, 17 million people are dangerously hungry. Oxfam has so far reached 1 million people.
  • In Somalia, nearly 3 million people are dangerously hungry. We have just launched a humanitarian response to initially help at least 20,000 people, with the aim of expanding it to help 200,000 people in the next 12 months.
  • In Nigeria, 4.7 million people are dangerously hungry, with around 44,000 people in famine-like conditions. We have helped 245,000 people and our intention is to help up to 500,000 people in 2017.

Read more about Oxfam’s response here.

The two largest catalysts of this wide-spread hunger are ongoing conflict, in South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria, and climate-change fuelled drought in Somalia.

Conflict has forced many people to leave their homes and communities, thereby losing access to food, fields, jobs and markets. Agriculture and trade have been disrupted, preventing people from producing the food they need, stopping food markets from functioning and disrupting the supply of aid. Those engaged in the conflict should be held accountable if they have directly or indirectly restricted civilian access to food.

Halima*, a mother of five from Nigeria, waits with her children on the side of a street in the town of Banki – an area that has been set up as a camp for people displaced by Boko Haram. She said they stole all her cattle, and she is waiting for the return of her husband from whom she has been separated from. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam.

Persistent drought in Somalia has led to devastating shortages of food and water, affecting people, animals and crops. This drought and its effects have been worsened by climate change which is fuelled by humans – the rains have been replaced with higher temperatures and drier conditions. Higher temperatures because of climate change mean that water evaporates from the land and from the leaves of plants a lot faster, creating drier conditions and intensifying the impact of the lack of rain.

It is ultimately the responsibility of governments to provide for their citizens, to ensure their right to life and food. When this responsibility cannot be met, the international community must step in. But, often the international response is too late, even when warning signs have been known for months.

The international community should have responded earlier. Human intervention could have prevented things from getting this bad, but we can still prevent things from getting worse.