The shocking figures which lay bare the looming famine in east Africa

220622 A mother helps her malnourished son stand after he collapsed near their home in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya, AP
A mother helps her malnourished son stand after he collapsed near their home in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya. Credit: AP

A poor start to the rainy season in the Horn of Africa has added to fears that the worst drought in decades could soon have catastrophic results, with the crisis worsened by the war in Ukraine driving up food prices and diverting international attention.

More than 18.4 million people including many children are already in dire need of food aid in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, which are now staring at an unprecedented fourth consecutive failed rainy season, having received below average rains so far this March to May.

On top of one of the worst droughts in decades and huge funding shortfalls, the war in Ukraine is threatening to push families in the Horn of Africa further into misery.

Water is becoming so scarce that people are forced to dig into dried riverbeds in search of it. Credit: ITV News

The blockade of the port of Odesa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast is preventing vital grain supplies from reaching the outside world, leading to shortages and increased global prices.

Figures focusing on the region show just how dire the situation is for the 89 million people who live in the Horn of Africa's 11 countries which after four failed rainy seasons is suffering from the worst drought in 40 years.

These are the grim statistics which show the severity of the situation across the region:

  • One person is likely dying of hunger every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. 

  • This time last year 50 million people were classed as 'food insecure' (a lack of a consistent access to food. Now it is 89 million, an increase of 90%, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

  • In the UK the average person spends between six percent and 10% of their monthly income on food. In east Africa, the same measure if between 40% and 60%, meaning any increase in the cost of food has a more severe impact, WFP figures show.

  • Due to deteriorating drought conditions, more than 7.1 million people, out of a total population of almost 16 million in Somalia are likely to experience food crisis (a long and extreme shortage of food which results in deaths) or worse food insecurity conditions between June and September. Moreover in the same period 2.1 million in Somalia are expected to face a food emergency and by September, 213,000 will be facing famine, according to the WFP.

  • In Somalia, 386,000 children face severe malnutrition, a figure equivalent to the total number of under-fives in Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to Save The Children (STC).

  • The number of people experiencing extreme hunger in the three countries now has more than doubled since last year – from over 10 million to more than 23 million. 

  • In Kenya, 4.1 million people are suffering from extreme hunger. 

By September more than 20 million people - half of them children - in the Horn of Africa could be facing starvation. Credit: ITV News
  • A survey from Help Age (formerly Help The Aged), shows that 73% of older people in the three countries reported they do not have access to enough food. In Ethiopia, it was 92%.   

  • Help Age also found that more than half (56%) of older people in the three countries are currently only eating one meal per day 

  • In Marsabit in Kenya's north, more than a quarter of a million people (270,000) are facing starvation because of the drought - more than 75% of the region's population - according to the Red Cross.

  • The WFP like many other NGOs are having to reduce the rations they hand out due to rising food costs. Some 94% of the rations they hand out have now been reduced.

  • The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization - which leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security - says that seven million livestock across the Horn of Africa have perished during the drought and 30% of this number was in Somalia alone.

  • In Kenya, the Red Cross estimates that 1.4 million animals have died from this drought.  

Children suffering from a lack of food in Kenya have been described as casualties of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Credit: ITV News

Turkana in northern Kenya, where ITV News filmed:

  • In recent months there has been a 157% rise in new admissions to hospitals and clinics of severely malnourished children, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) says.

  • Camps for internationally displaced people contain almost a quarter-of-a-million (230,000) refugees, according to the IRC.

Donations to the IRC can be made here.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know