The number of people experiencing extreme hunger in these countries has more than doubled since last year — from more than 10 million to more than 23 million today, with nearly half a million people in parts of Somalia and Ethiopia facing famine-like conditions.
Children are affected and the UN has warned that in Somalia alone up to 350,000 children may die unless action is taken and taken now.
This is, what is unfolding as I write, already being called the greatest humanitarian crisis since the second World War.
The growing impact of climate change, compounded by conflict and the fallout from Covid-19, and an unparalleled period of drought, has devastated crops and destroyed livelihoods, forcing millions of people to leave their homes.
The numbers displaced globally have now surpassed the 100 million threshold for the first time since records began.
The war in Ukraine has also had an impact. Food and fuel prices have already increased and where understandably our attention has been deflected from other global crises to the site of the war, its consequences for the most threatened in Africa cannot afford to be ignored.
Countries in the global south that have contributed least to climate change are suffering the most. They are carrying immediate and terrible consequences, reflected in images we see coming from the Horn of Africa recently, images of malnourished children, dead animals strewn across burnt sands, families on the move and people yet again on the verge of famine.
We as a nation — and the global community — cannot avert our gaze. We have a moral and ethical responsibility as a country that has historically known terrible deprivation and hunger ourselves to reach out and support our brothers and sisters in need.
Hunger represents the grossest of human rights violations and one of the greatest ethical challenges facing the world today. We urgently need a renewed effort to help prevent the deaths of millions of poor and marginalised people.
As a matter of extreme urgency, the international community needs to make the funds required available to stave off a pending humanitarian disaster and to get immediate aid to people who are starving in Africa. The UN estimates that humanitarian funding of US$4.4 billion (€4.16 billion) is required to provide life-saving assistance and protection in the region. To date, the appeal is drastically underfunded.
The international community is challenged by this threatened famine and all famines to honour its obligations to climate change mitigation and adaptation, ensuring a robust regulatory framework to protect our fragile and threatened environment, and that respects the right of small landholders to remain on their land and retain access to water sources.