On Monday 17 October, CARE International UK joined Action Against Hunger and other international aid organisations to urge the new Prime Minister to wake up to the looming famine in East Africa. Drought and the conflict in Ukraine have had a major impact on the cost and availability of food in the region. Against the backdrop of Big Ben, supporters (including MPs, diaspora and faith groups) set off 80 alarm clocks to warn that time is running out to stop more people dying of hunger.
It came as a new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report showed Somalia is on the brink of widespread famine, and Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame - the presidential envoy for Somalia’s drought response – warned that more humanitarian aid must reach the region.
In the Parliament Square demonstration, there was one central ‘prop’ clock measuring 1.5m high and 1.2 wide. The face of the clock showed the IPC levels across the Horn of Africa, indicating the proportion of the population experiencing crisis levels of hunger. Around 6.7 million people are projected to experience crisis levels of hunger and 1.8 million children younger than five will face acute malnutrition this year.
The demonstrators were joined by Preet Gill, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development; Lyn Brown, Shadow Minister for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs; Kerry McCarthy, Shadow Minister for Climate Change; and Sarah Champion, Chair of the International Development Committee.
Over 50 million people across East Africa are on the brink of starvation. Women and girls are being disproportionately affected by drought, hunger, and conflict. Research by CARE International found that in 2021, 150 million more women than men experienced hunger globally. Women and girls often eat less and eat last. Girls are being forced to leave school, putting them at an increasing risk of child labour, early marriages, and gender-based violence. Women and girls play vital roles in preventing and responding to food insecurity and famine.
The crisis is already causing devastating suffering and it will get worse. Households are being forced to make heartbreaking choices, prioritising short-term survival over long-term health, wellbeing, and prosperity. Aid workers have undoubtedly saved many lives in extremely difficult conditions, but they are running out of resources to provide help.
A petition of over 30,000 signatures and a letter by 12 leading UK aid agencies has already been handed in to No. 10 calling for urgent action on the hunger crisis.