Church leaders plead with UK government to help East Africa amid hunger crisis

Dozens of bishops from South Sudan and Kenya have issued a desperate plea to the UK government as East Africa grapples with a spiralling hunger crisis.

An open letter signed by over 40 bishops from South Sudan and Kenya appeals to the UK government to “urgently get more funding to the front line of the hunger crisis in East Africa, and to mobilise the international community to collectively step up.”

East Africa is in the grip of a hunger crisis following severe drought. This has been compounded by additional challenges like locust infestations, flooding, conflict and the ongoing fallout from the pandemic, which has sent prices soaring and affected supply chains.

In their letter, the bishops suggest that the crisis could have been avoided but “early warnings were not heeded”. They also say that commitments to strengthen resilience have not been backed up by the necessary funding.

The Most Rev Dr Justin Badi Arama, Primate of South Sudan, who has signed the open letter, said: “People are dying from starvation.

“Millions are hungry with three in four now facing severe food insecurity. We need the international community to act now to help prevent widespread famine.

“The UK Government can help by leading from the front.”

The letter has the support of development agency, Christian Aid. Yitna Tekaligne, who works as Country Director for Christian Aid Ethiopia, said that millions have been forced to take “desperate measures to survive in the face of failed harvests, livestock deaths, water shortages and extreme hunger”.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 18.4m people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are going hungry. 

Christian Aid is helping over 300,000 people across Ethiopia and Kenya by repairing wells, handing out water purification kits, providing cash support and trucking water to communities affected by drought.

Additional support is being provided to help livestock owners keep their animals alive, including the distribution of fodder and medicine.

The letter has been welcomed by Karimi Kinoti, Christian Aid’s Kenya-based interim Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Director. She called on the UK to “speed up” the delivery of promised funding and reverse recent cuts to international aid.

Tekaligne added, “The severe conditions are being made worse by the climate crisis, Covid and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused global food prices to rocket. A tough situation has now turned into a dire crisis.”

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