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Extreme hunger crisis

Millions of people in East Africa are in urgent need of emergency food aid due to drought.

Torit General Hospital South Sudan

Torit General Hospital, South Sudan. Screening for malnutrition and supplementary feeding and treatment for severe cases of malnutrition. Nurse Lokii Martin Lokare measuring for malnutrition. Photo by Mark Mitchell/ Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Half the population of Somalia (6.2 million people) are experiencing serious food insecurity bordering on famine, there have also been major outbreaks of cholera across the country. 
  • Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan. 
  • Communities in south-eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya also in need of major humanitarian assistance. 

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Situation update


Half the population of Somalia (6.2 million people) are in need of emergency aid. The situation threatens a repeat of 2011, when a famine in the country cost the lives of 250,000 people, half of them children. At the moment, 360,000 children under age five are acutely malnourished, of which 70,000 are severely malnourished.

Trócaire is one of the few international aid agencies operating in the Gedo district of Somalia, which is one of the worst affected areas.  

The situation is a result of consecutive seasons with poor rainfall. Crops and livestock have been wiped out in affected areas, and communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive.

Competition for resources such as water also increases the possibility of local tensions. While related 'distress migration' from rural areas to towns, other regions, or into neighbouring Ethiopia in search of livelihood opportunities, is higher than in 2011.

In Somalia, Trócaire’s emergency response scales up our existing health, nutrition, and education services to address growing malnutrition, food insecurity, and the spread of diseases like measles, malaria and cholera.
Trócaire is providing nutritional support in clinical care locations and via our education programme. Increasing school feeding addresses both the immediate food needs for school-going children, and helps children who might drop out without food provision to stay in school.

Trócaire is a member of a consortium of international non-governmental organisations that recently received funding from the UK Department for International Development (DfID) to scale up access to health and nutrition services across the country.

South Sudan

A famine was declared in parts of South Sudan on Monday, 20 February. 

Two counties in the country are now in famine, while other areas remain at one classification below famine. 

The famine has been declared in one state of South Sudan (Unity State). Other regions of South Sudan are currently either one level below famine classification (‘emergency’) or two levels below (‘crisis’). 

Over 100,000 people are now in famine but 5.5 million people in the country – over 40 per cent of the population – are at risk over the coming months. 

The crisis has been compounded by conflict which has displaced millions and has severely disrupted crop planting. 

Trócaire is providing monthly food rations to 12,000 of the most vulnerable host and displaced individuals in the Adior and Pagarau counties of Yirol East State  through our partner the Caritas Diocese of Rumbek. 

The team in Juba is currently preparing to scale up our humanitarian response in the coming weeks.


Below average rainfall in the south of the country has badly affected food production and left 5.7 million facing food shortages

Trócaire is currently reaching nearly 10,000 households with emergency support in Borena and South Omo regions. This involves emergency food security measures including giving urgent cash transfers and supporting water distribution. We are also funding emergency livelihood protection including livestock vaccination, treatment and feeding. This is vital to ensure that people affected by the drought do not lose their livelihoods.


Drought has badly affected seven regions of northern Kenya, with the government declaring a crisis situation. 

In Kenya we are supporting feeding programmes for 2,000 children in three medical units in Loima, Turkana County.  We are also trucking water to six schools in Barpello, East Pokot (Baringo County).  This has allowed the schools to stay open and provide meals to the children attending the school. 

Eyewitness account from South Sudan

“People are living on berries and leaves in South Sudan and things are set to get much worse” according to Sean Farrell, Director of Trócaire’s International Division, who returned from South Sudan in recent weeks.  

“Right now 100,000 people are in famine and do not have enough food for the day let alone tomorrow or next month. About five million people will need emergency food aid over the coming months. Among them, children are facing serious malnutrition.”
The conflict in South Sudan, has been ongoing since the country gained independence in 2011.  

Years of war has forced two million people from their homes to neighbouring counties. People have no source of income or means to get food. Drought and crop failure have compounded people’s vulnerability.  As a result millions of people are dangerously close to starvation.
Trócaire has been working in South Sudan for over 40 years. Trócaire’s current programme borders Unity county- where the fighting has been at its worst and the famine has just been declared.

Some of the 12,000 people Trócaire is supporting fled from the worst fighting in that region. Families left their homes with nothing and no means of feeding their children.

Up to now Trócaire’s support included water points, food aid, cooking oil and simple kitchen utensils for families. But in recent weeks support had focused exclusively on food aid in response to the growing emergency in the region. 
“Where I visited in South Sudan, the hungry season is normally June and July when food stocks have been depleted and the new harvest is yet to come. But in February hunger was already evident. It is going to be a long and hard six months until any harvest brings relief. If these people are to survive, food aid and vital life-saving support will be necessary.”

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