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Africans are victims of a war 5,000 miles away Rocketing food and fuel prices are pushing hundreds

The region faces famine conditions thanks to a perfect storm of poor rain, skyrocketing food prices and huge funding shortfalls CREDIT: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

We all depend on the rain for food. If there is no rain, it means there is no food.” Those are the words of Fatuma Molu, a widowed mother of eight in northern Kenya. The region, alongside the rest of the Horn of Africa, is suffering the worst drought in 40 years. For the first time, people here face four failed back-to-back rainy seasons.

If this climate-induced crisis wasn’t already desperately acute, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned a tough situation into a dire crisis. Africans have become victims of a war some 5,000 miles away, as rocketing food and fuel prices push hundreds of thousands towards famine.

We must sound the alarm and give hope to people in need. As G7 leaders meet in Germany this weekend it is action, not words, that the Horn of Africa awaits.

The UN warns 18.4m people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are missing meals, or eating a less diverse diet. In particular, women and girls are going hungry. Failure to act will escalate conditions. Yet despite the deteriorating situation, the drought is unfolding in silence. Just 23 per cent of the British public in a poll commissioned by Christian Aid said they were aware of the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. That compares to 92 per cent who are aware of the conflict in Ukraine.

Waiting for the worst is ‘unacceptable’

Given recent inaction from the UK Government, these numbers are of little surprise. In 2017, the UK helped to avert the worst of a hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa by donating £700m. This year, that figure is around £72m – ten times less, despite the prolonged drought and effects of the pandemic. Given the UN has called for $1.4 billion, how can the UK response be enough? This cannot be what is meant by Global Britain.

Criticism doesn’t sit with the UK alone. Last year, G7 leaders pledged $8.5 billion in the Famine Prevention Compact to end starvation. A year on, with acute hunger increasing, it is still unclear where that funding has gone. May between the G7 presidency and the World Bank to launch a new Global Alliance for Food Security to address food security has so far amounted to yet another set of promises with no clear plan of action.

Just as the UK must restore cuts to international aid to prevent famine in the Horn of Africa, so too must all G7 leaders follow through on their promises.

Waiting for the worst-case scenario to unfold is unacceptable. This crisis was not a surprise. Money was needed yesterday. All humanitarian and development funding in the pipeline needs to be frontloaded now to deliver on commitments to support a locally led response on the ground and save lives.

The more fundamental problem, however, is recognising that this food security crisis is worse than it could have been. Lessons from previous crises have been ignored, and we know food prices were already at all-time high before both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

More support is needed for sustainable agriculture approaches that lessens dependence on pesticide, fertiliser, and food imports. Ultimately, a key part of prevention is strengthening sustainable food systems to become more resilient, including to climate conditions. Equally, world leaders must tackle the integrated nature of the climate crisis and global hunger by delivering on climate finance promises.

As the G7 opens, we cannot forget about people like Fatuma Molu. In Ethiopia and Kenya, Christian Aid is helping over 300,000 people by repairing wells, investing in water purification kits, and dispersing animal feed and medicine to keep valuable livestock alive.

That alone gives hope, but in isolation it cannot be the solution.

It is now over to the UK Government and G7 leaders to show leadership. It is too late to avert a humanitarian emergency, but it is not too late to save lives.

The response to humanitarian needs in Ukraine has been remarkable, we must also now live up to our commitments and act in that same spirit for the Horn of Africa.