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  • Writer's pictureOvith Thiyagalingam

The Horn of Africa: How Can Canadians Help Tackle the Hunger Crisis?

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

This article discusses themes of food insecurity, conflict, and violence against women and may be triggering for some readers.

“These prolonged and recurrent climate change-induced droughts will further worsen other existing, mutually exacerbating humanitarian challenges in the region, including the ongoing hunger crisis, the impacts of COVID-19, and internal displacement.”

– Mohammed Mukhier, Africa Regional Director at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The Horn of Africa: What's Happening?

The Horn of Africa is facing over two years of insufficient rainfall to meet basic water, agricultural, and livestock needs. Over 36.1 million people are experiencing crisis levels of hunger across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, as the Horn of Africa remains entrenched in one of the region’s most severe and longest droughts in the last 40 years. This includes at least 24 million people directly impacted in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia, and 4.3 million in Kenya.

The March to May rainy season in 2022 was the driest in the last 7 decades. Current predictions indicate these drought conditions are likely to continue at least through the March 2023 to May 2023 rainy season.

Compounded with existing political instabilities, violence, and conflict, the Horn of Africa presents a larger human crisis with devastating impact on the population, particularly women and other marginalized groups. More than 11 million livestock have died, disrupting the lives of many vulnerable families who rely on livestock for their livelihoods.

The crisis disproportionately impacts women and girls. Women in the region are most often the ones responsible for gathering water for their families, and must now do so by making long, precarious journeys. During these trips, women possess a heightened vulnerability to rape, abuse, and sexual exploitation.

As the hunger crisis persists, desperate families are also increasingly marrying or selling off young girls. According to UNICEF, girls as young as at least 12 are being forced into child marriages. The number of child marriages has also more than doubled in the areas most affected by the droughts in Ethiopia within the span of the past year. These girls are more at risk of experiencing intimate partner violence, which includes sexual assault and battery. Over 15 million children are out of school, with many of them being young girls.

The region is also heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine, with supply shortages and high fuel costs contributing to rapidly rising inflation and unaffordable costs of living. For example, Somalia relies on Russia and Ukraine for over 90% of Somalia’s wheat supplies.

Drought in the Horn of Africa region has worsened existing displacement from decades of conflict. In just Somalia, over 3 million people have been forced to abandon their homes to find food.

Climate change and severe weather have real human impact, and the Horn of Africa crisis must be tackled through a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the challenges of climate, conflict, food security, and gender-based violence, among other issues.

What is Canada's Response?

In December 2022, the Government of Canada announced that Canada is committing $107 million in funding to the Horn of Africa region. The financial aid comes as part of Canada’s announcement earlier in June to deliver $250 million to UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to help tackle the global food security-hunger crisis.

Canada has also announced $11.2 million funding for a 3-year school meal program that will provide daily meals to over 32,000 school children in food-insecure regions of Somalia and South Sudan.

The Government of Canada’s humanitarian assistance funding for Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan increased from $150 million in 2021 to more than $200 million in 2022.

In addition to committing financial funding to support the Horn of Africa region, federal policymakers in Canada hold a direct responsibility to address the crisis. For example, immigration and refugee policymakers in Canada can help to create supports for migrants from the Horn of Africa region seeking refuge in Canada.

Student Action

Students and youth in Canada also hold an equally important role in addressing the Horn of Africa crisis.

Raise awareness in your family, peers, and social circles of what’s happening in the Horn of Africa. In doing so, you can help rally greater support in Canada for the people of the Horn of Africa region, while kickstarting dialogue on new and innovative ways to tackle the crisis.

Through donating to registered charities that are actively responding to the Horn of Africa crisis, you can help to provide food, clean water, and health services that will save lives. Some credible humanitarian organizations with ongoing relief efforts in the region include:

  • The Humanitarian Coalition

  • UN World Food Programme

  • UNICEF Canada

  • Canadian Red Cross

  • Doctors Without Borders

  • Mennonite Central Committee

  • World Vision Canada

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