Wake up to East Africa food crisis, Bishops urge UK Government

CHURCH leaders and Christian charities are calling on the UK government to wake up to the food crisis in East Africa (News, May 6) and fund programs that provide long-term solutions.

An open letter from 44 Anglican bishops from South Sudan and Kenya, published on Wednesday, says that “existing commitments to build resilience have not been backed by desperately needed funding. This must change. Every day more and more lives are lost and more are in danger.

The bishops warn that “another famine is on the horizon, but it is not inevitable” if emergency funding is provided.

On Monday, Christian Aid published a report, Tear off the bandage, which describes the international response to the food crisis as “grossly inadequate”.

Hunger has more than doubled in the past year, the report says, and tens of millions now face food insecurity in the region, precipitated by the worst drought in 40 years. This situation has been exacerbated by the conflict in this country and in Ukraine, which has affected grain imports (News, July 29).

The report argues that the current model of international assistance, with its cycles of appeals and crisis funding, is falling short of breaking the cycle of food insecurity.

Instead, he argues, the focus should be on increasing support for local organizations that can work sustainably with communities over the long term, to increase land productivity and resilience to fluctuating yields.

“Now is the time to take off the band-aid and invest more in communities during and between crises,” the report says.

Christian Aid’s global humanitarian director, Mbaraka Fazal, said on Monday: “In a world where there is enough food for everyone, it is a moral outrage for people to starve.”

She continued: “While helping people currently facing life-threatening hunger is of the utmost importance, we also need to start thinking longer term. We must accept that the aid system is a band-aid that is not suited to respond to the ever-increasing scale of emerging crises.

The report describes the effects of recent droughts in East Africa. In Ethiopia, where 20 million people face food insecurity (an increase from five million at the same time last year), the need for farmers to travel beyond their region in search of resources rare created a conflict. This, in turn, reduces productivity.

The charity Mary’s Meals, which feeds school children, has drawn attention to renewed fighting in Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia in conflict with the federal government.

Mary’s Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow said on Wednesday: “The resumption of fighting makes it almost impossible for our partner to get help to those in need, but we must not make the mistake of to think that there is nothing we can do. We have a voice and we must speak on behalf of the Ethiopian people now.

In August, at the Lambeth Conference, the Bishop of Central Tanganyika, Tanzania, the Most Reverend Dickson Chilongani, highlighted the role climate change was playing in creating the conditions of food scarcity. Extreme weather – too much or too little rain – was causing serious problems, he said.

Bishops attending the Lambeth Conference joined a prayer vigil on behalf of the millions facing famine in East Africa (News, Aug. 5).

The Bishop of Abyei, South Sudan, the Most Reverend Michael Deng Bol, was one of those who attended the vigil. “Drought in some areas and flooding in others means people are leaving their homes and crops are failing. A lot of people are out of food and they are starving,” he said.

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