Joint letter to the Prime Minister

To the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak

Right now, East Africa is facing a catastrophic hunger crisis caused by one of the worst droughts in living memory. It is looking increasingly likely that a fifth consecutive rainy season has failed in the region, leaving millions of families in a desperate situation and facing starvation.

In drought-stricken Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, it is estimated that one person is dying every 36 seconds from hunger. More than 7 million children are acutely malnourished across the 3 countries. Mothers are burying their children and extremely vulnerable people are waking up and going to bed hungry every single day. In neighbouring South Sudan, devastating floods have also destroyed several seasons of crops and over half of the population are facing acute food insecurity. Women girls and children are being disproportionately impacted.

This emergency has been caused by a lethal cocktail of crises, which have come one on top of the other. The unprecedented droughts and floods have undoubtedly been exacerbated by climate change, a clear example of the devastating loss and damage which these communities did little to cause. While ongoing conflict in the region has led to more people being displaced, the impact of the war in Ukraine has meant crucial supplies of essentials like grain and cooking oil are not getting through. And as food prices have skyrocketed here in the UK and the world-over, millions of people in the East Africa region who were already facing extreme poverty and hunger are now being pushed over the edge.

Communities that aid agencies have worked with for decades have run out of ways to cope and been stretched to breaking point as the precious crops and livestock that so many rely upon for a living have been decimated. Although a full-scale famine is yet to be officially declared, what we are seeing on the ground is a famine in all but name. Services that treat malnutrition are struggling to cope with the numbers. Despite the rapidly mounting death toll, the international response is woefully underfunded and the UK has failed to do its bit.

As Prime Minister, you have an opportunity to help prevent a huge humanitarian catastrophe, but action is needed now. During the 2017 crisis, the UK gave £861 million to help avert famine in the region and we need to see the UK step up and show this leadership again before it’s too late.

As well as acting to save lives now, it is vital that the UK Government also acts to stop crises like this from happening again by investing in resilience building approaches to help people to break the cycle. Tackling the climate crisis must also be a top priority, even now the UK has handed over the COP Presidency.

We implore you not to stand by as so many lives hang in the balance.

Signed by:

  1. Waseem Ahmad, CEO, Islamic Relief
  2. Christine Allen, Director, CAFOD
  3. Rev Celia Apeagyei-Collins, Founder of the Rehoboth Foundation
  4. Martin Barber, OBE, former Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)
  5. Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP
  6. Lord Malcolm Bruce, former Chair of the International Development Select Committee
  7. Rose Caldwell, CEO, Plan International UK
  8. Matthew Carter, CEO, Depaul International
  9. Marian Casey-Maslen, Executive Director, CDAC Network
  10. Eamon Cassidy, CEO, Care International UK
  11. John Good, CEO, Action Aid UK
  12. Jean-Michel Grand, Director of Action Against Hunger UK
  13. Nigel Harris, CEO, Tearfund
  14. Danny Harvey, Executive Director, Concern Worldwide UK
  15. Nimo Hassan, Director, Somali NGO Consortium
  16. Gwen Hines, CEO, Save the Children UK
  17. Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover
  18. Mukesh Kapila, CBE, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs, University of Manchester
  19. Randolph Kent, PhD, Visiting Professor, African Leadership Centre, King's College London
  20. Laura Kyrke-Smith, Executive Director, International Rescue Committee UK
  21. Alison Marshall, CEO, Age International
  22. Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol
  23. Mark Sheard, CEO, World Vision UK
  24. Clare Short, former Secretary of State for International Development
  25. Dr Hugo Slim, Senior Research Fellow, Las Casas Institute for Social Justice, University of Oxford
  26. Rory Stewart OBE President of GiveDirectly
  27. Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO, Oxfam GB
  28. Sir Stephen Timms, MP
  29. Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington
  30. Patrick Watt, CEO, Christian Aid