Child's nutritional status being measured

We can not forget about the 15 million children in eastern Africa going hungry

Amidst hurricanes and earthquakes, a paralyzing hunger crisis continues to grip millions of families in eastern Africa. 

You could be forgiven if you’ve forgotten about it. In a media landscape dominated by entertainment personalities and natural disasters, the stubborn drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, along with the conflict in South Sudan rarely make global headlines. 

Yet, this catastrophe is very real. 

A generation of children is at risk. 

More than 15 million children in eastern African countries are not eating a single balanced meal a day. Of those children, close to 1 million under age 5 are starving. If they are not helped by medical professionals, about 50 per cent of them are at risk of dying from Severe Acute Malnutrition.  

Currently, a child suffering from the drought and conflict in East Africa receives the same amount of food that a 20kg dog is fed in the Western world — food amounting to 1,000 calories.  

The situation is equally stark when we talk about water.

While the average American uses 350 litres of clean water a day for washing, cooking and drinking, the average water provided to a person starving in East Africa is less than 7 litres per day, enough to fill a single pot.

The volume and scale of the need is horrifying.  

In South Sudan and Somalia, half of the entire population are in need of clean water and food. In Ethiopia, 8.5 million people are in need – that’s as many people as the entire population of London, England. In Kenya, 3.4 million people are wasting away in forgotten rural pockets of the country.

The scenes are grim.

Our team recently visited a rural hospital in the north of Kenya where they described the children wasted by severe acute malnutrition as “disfigured artwork”. The continuing flow of children appearing at the hospital is marked on a white board under three columns: dead, undergoing treatment or cured.  Too many children fall under the dead column.

Organizations like World Vision, where I work, are doing what they can with what they have through the support from governments in the global north and through partnerships with the United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In the last six months, World Vision has launched a multi-country emergency response to provide the worst-affected in South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia with emergency food assistance, clean water and other essential life-saving services.

We’ve reached more than 3 million people during this time, but much more needs to be done. 

We are witnessing the largest cross-country crisis this part of Africa has ever seen. 

In our collective work with other humanitarian organizations responding to this disaster, we have reached 13 Million people. Still, that's less than 50 per cent of those who are in need and are struggling to provide one meal a day to their families.

As we reach the 6 month mark of the humanitarian crisis in East Africa, it important that we take stock of what we have done, what foreign nations have provided to the people, and what humanitarians have been doing daily to address the mounting effects of hunger and poverty.  

Today, with the technology and engineering capability available--the sheer fact that millions are starving around the globe is a travesty.  

A travesty of political systems, of arrogance and of ignorance.  

On this anniversary, I beseech us as humans and as humanitarians to continue to push forward as a collective.

We need to continue to help those in need and do whatever small part we can to encourage African counterparts in government to take responsibility of their populations’ plight.

Western governments can help ward off the worst effects of this crisis by giving funding adequately and appropriately to serve those in need. Our humanitarian partners must continue  to target assistance effectively and towards an end that prevents this terrible blight on the history of man-kind from happening again.

This is our inherent responsibility to our fellow humans.  

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Martin Luther King, Jr.  

About the author: Christopher Hoffman is the regional response director for World Vision in East Africa.