The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Tuesday that a major hunger crisis in Africa is “going largely unnoticed” as the world focuses on Ukraine and other crises.
Some 346 million people — more than one in four people across Africa — are suffering from “alarming” hunger and that number will probably rise in the coming months, the ICRC said.
The crisis spans the continent from drought-ravaged Somalia and Ethiopia in the east to Mauritania and Burkina Faso in the west, it said.
But, it warned, funding to assist millions going without meals is in short supply.
“This is a disaster going largely unnoticed. Millions of families are going hungry and children are dying because of malnutrition,” ICRC head of global operations Dominik Stillhart told reporters in Nairobi.
He said global attention on the “terrible” plight of civilians in Ukraine “should not prevent the world from looking at other crises.”
The conflict in Ukraine has also contributed to rising food and fuel costs and supply chain disruptions, amplifying the economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic, the ICRC added.
The ICRC has budgeted $1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) this year for its humanitarian response across Africa but faces a $800-million-euro shortfall.
“We are scaling up our operations… to help as many people as we can, but the number of people going without food and water is staggering,” said Stillhart.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) warned last month that over 70 percent of South Sudan’s population would face extreme hunger this year because of natural disasters and armed instability.
More than six million people in eastern and southern Ethiopia would need “life-saving” interventions this year as the region suffers its worst drought in decades, the UN said in January.
In Burkina Faso, the number of people displaced by hunger had more than doubled in the past year.
Stillhart also warned about the underlying impact on harvests from climate change.
“The current food security crisis is clearly the result of combined effects of conflict… but it is also the effect of repeated climate shocks,” he said.