East Africa is on the brink of famine. It is estimated that one person is dying from hunger every 36 seconds – 2,400 people every day. And millions more are facing life-threatening hunger as drought, disease and food shortages continue to ravage the region.
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis. They often eat less and are the last to eat. 720,000 girls are at risk of dropping out of school, putting them at increased risk of early marriage, child labour and gender-based violence.
Today, anti-poverty charities including CARE International UK along with ONE, Oxfam, Save The Children, Concern Worldwide (UK), and Action Against Hunger UK lined up thousands of shoes in Trafalgar Square as a stark representation of the number of lives currently being lost daily in East Africa. The stunt was also attended by Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden David Davis.
The action comes two days before the fiscal statement is made this Thursday (17 November). The Chancellor is set to announce a £33bn cut in public spending. Recent analysis suggests that almost half of the aid budget – around £4bn – is being spent domestically, mainly to finance our vital support to refugees fleeing Ukraine. That leaves us with a mere 0.3% of national income being available to be spent overseas, such as in East Africa. UK funding for the East African food crisis this year (£142million) is 82% less than in the last crisis in 2018 when the UK provided £861million.
The government must not balance the books on the back of the world’s poor. Millions of lives are at risk. The crisis is already causing devastating suffering. More humanitarian aid is desperately needed as a matter of urgency, and any further reduction in UK aid would be catastrophic.
We are urging Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to immediately fund humanitarian response in East Africa, invest in anticipatory action to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe, and to protect overseas aid by ensuring adequate funding is reserved to be spent abroad.