This page is also available in: French, Spanish

Famine stalks East Africa and the horn


There is a high risk of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen in 2017 because of armed conflict, drought and economic collapse. It has the potential to be the worst famine in 70 years with more than 20 million people in the four countries at risk of starvation. Beyond the four, communities in Kenya and Ethiopia are in critical need of food aid if they are to survive.

Famine is when more than 30 percent of children under age five suffer from acute malnutrition and mortality rates are two or more deaths per 10,000 people every day, among other criteria. Without collective and coordinated action by the international community, many people will starve to death. Humanitarian aid is essential, but food is not enough. Conflict across all four countries has created the conditions for famine to spread. Peace is essential if this man-made famine is to be contained.

Caritas is working through the local Church or partner organisations across all four most severely affected countries, in their neighbouring countries were refugees have fled and in Kenya and Ethiopia where conditions are bleak. Caritas is providing food aid, including airdrops when access is limited, livelihoods, agricultural support, safe clean water and healthcare.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy said, “Caritas and the Church are working with the people to ensure they have food, medicine and clean water. Humanitarian aid is crucial to save lives, but famine is a product of political failure. Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen have one thing in common: conflict. Only peace can guarantee millions of people facing hunger today.”

Conditions are difficult due to the conflict. Only political solutions will ultimately end human suffering and bring stability. Emergency assistance only helps if people can access it. All warring sides must provide access to humanitarian organisations. Otherwise people will die.

Pope Francis said, “At this time it’s more necessary than ever for everyone to not just stop with words, but to take concrete action so that food aid can reach suffering populations.”

Caritas Updates from East Africa & The Horn

  • Cholera and hunger threaten Somalia

Cholera and hunger threaten Somalia

  • 16 March 2017
A famine in 2011 left over a quarter of a million people dead in Somalia. The current drought, one of the worst in living memory, is far more severe. Crops have been destroyed. Many villages have been left without water.
  • Ethiopia hit by drought and food shortages

Ethiopia hit by drought and food shortages

  • 19 September 2016
Demand for aid has risen dramatically. More than 10.2 million people now need emergency food assistance, 1.2 million women and children need supplementary food aid, 400,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition.

East Africa Photo Gallery

2017 Somalia March-CRS


Join our fight for the world’s poor

Stay up-to-date on our good work around the world and be the first to hear about how to help in an emergency.