Dangerous Delay 2: The cost of inaction

Farr, E., Finnegan, L., Grace, J. and Truscott, M.
Publication language
Date published
01 May 2022
Research, reports and studies
Food aid, Food security, Response and recovery
Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia
Oxfam, Save the Children

Around the world, 181 million are forecast to be in crisis levels of hunger in 2022. Oxfam and Save the Children estimate that across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, on average one person is likely dying every 48 seconds from acute hunger linked to conflict, COVID-19, the climate crisis and inflationary and market pressures accelerated by the current conflict in Ukraine. Hard-won progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and millions of children’s lives are now at risk if urgent action is not taken to avert famine. But preventing people from dying of starvation without political action to tackle underlying drivers – including inequality, conflict and the climate crisis, will not stop the cyclical – and predictable – crises experienced by millions of people around the world. Starvation is a political failure.

In 2011, Somalia experienced a devastating famine that killed over a quarter of a million people – half of them children under the age of 5. The international community failed to act in time, despite repeated warnings of an impending crisis. In the wake of the tragedy, leaders in the region made a commitment to end drought emergencies by 2022. The international community sought to ensure that there would be no repeat of the failures that led to famine. Next time, the world would heed the warnings and act early, in anticipation, to avoid the crisis. Yet, just over a decade since the 2011 famine, and despite various warnings and alarms over the past two years, the commitment to anticipatory action has proven halfhearted. We are once again responding too late and with too little to avert the crisis.

Nearly half a million people across Somalia and parts of Ethiopia are facing faminelike conditions, with women being particularly affected. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are suffering crisis levels of hunger, and UN predictions suggest that 350,000 Somali children may die by the summer of 2022 if governments and donors do not tackle food insecurity and malnutrition immediately. The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has more than doubled since last year, from over 10 million to over 23 million people.