What are the solutions to East Africa's hunger crisis and how can you help?

This video contains distressing images

Correspondent Peter Smith travelled to Somalia with cameraman Andy Rex, where a historic drought is threatening widespread starvation and death

There has been a massive and immediate response to our special report on Somalia’s drought and hunger crisis for ITV News this week.

Most major international aid organisations have responded and shared it, simultaneously highlighting the urgency of the rapidly deteriorating situation, and called on the world to do more to help save millions from starving to death.

There is frustration that such a preventable catastrophe has already begun - and that it is getting worse each passing day - while the world watches it all happen. 

The Director General of the World Health Organisation called it ‘heartbreaking’ as he shared our report with what his organisation is doing so far.

The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown shared it highlighting the main concern saying: "The worst famine for years and @WFP are $10bn short in their appeal. It is time for urgent global action."

Viewers have also been asking us what they can do to help. 

Credit: ITV News

The aid agencies say there are solutions to this.

They tell us Somalia is suffering as a result of a series of largely man-made disasters hitting all at once, and most of them can be undone by humanity, if there is the will to help and the resources are delivered to back it up. 

We asked six of them to tell us specifically what they believe needs to happen in East Africa to prevent millions from starving to death. Here’s what they told us: 

WFP, World Food Programme - 'needs may outstrip resources'

“There is an urgent need to address both the immediate needs of the hungry, such as malnutrition, and the longer-term requirements such as supporting people’s livelihoods, investing in critical infrastructure and adapting to climate change to ensure those affected by crises can weather shocks and thrive.

In Somalia for example, WFP has scaled up our lifesaving food and nutrition assistance for the 5 million people most at risk of slipping into famine conditions. WFP will provide families with cash vouchers and food assistance, while mothers and children receive specialized nutrition supplements to treat malnutrition.

At the same time WFP is helping Somalia prepare for, and cope with, recurrent climate crises and other shocks. This work includes helping the government to create a delivery mechanism for the country's first shock-responsive social safety net programme, which has already reached 1.2 million people.

This scale up to reach people on the edge of famine comes at a cost. WFP had to cut its malnutrition prevention programme to ensure that children already suffering from malnutrition get the immediate support they need.

But funding sources remain uncertain, and WFP is concerned that needs may outstrip resources especially as weather forecasts indicate a potential fifth consecutive failed rainy season in October through to December.

WFP needs predictable and sustainable funding through 2022 and into 2023 to effectively support crisis affected people in the Horn of Africa region.”

Donate to WFP here

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UNICEF - 'adequate, timely and sustained funding is crucial to prevent famine'

Somalia’s cruel lesson is that excess mortality among severely malnourished children shoots up suddenly when malnutrition combines with disease outbreaks – as is happening right now. 

UNICEF is working with the government, local authorities and partners to provide emergency water, health and nutrition services, including emergency therapeutic food for children. 

Adequate, timely and sustained funding is crucial to prevent famine and build resilience."

- Wafaa Saeed, UNICEF Somalia Representative

Donate to UNICEF here

Save the Children - 'vital our government step up. The time to spend this money is now' 

“The UK Government’s recent commitment of £372 million to tackle this crisis, as well its Nutrition for Growth pledge, were steps in the right direction.

But the time to spend this money is now. Somalia is facing one of the most severe emergencies in the worst global hunger crisis this century.

Our health clinics in the region are seeing a fourfold increase in children suffering from severe malnutrition, mothers are having to bury multiple children and families are taking desperate measures to survive as their livestock is wiped out by the drought. 

It’s vital that our government step up and ensure the money they’ve committed urgently reaches those who need it.

Last week, the US made a new commitment to respond to this crisis and called on other donors to match them. The UK must follow suit, particularly in ensuring that access to life-saving ready-to-use therapeutic food is increased.

But there's more to this. The UK must work with world leaders to tackle the root causes of this crisis. This includes responding faster, investing in a safe climate, fixing the food system, supporting essential health and nutrition services, and opening up humanitarian access.

Time is running out for children in Somalia. Their lives are hanging in the balance. We urgently need to see scaled up action to ensure we end hunger for good.”

- Claire Sanford, Deputy Humanitarian Director at Save the Children UK

Donate to Save the Children here

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Islamic Relief - 'international community has a duty to keep the promises it has made to the world’s most vulnerable'

“Every day, people are dying from malnutrition and hunger in the Horn of Africa. We are witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters, which will only escalate unless urgent action is taken. International donors should immediately step up emergency funding to save the lives and livelihoods of nearly 20 million people facing catastrophic hunger after an unprecedented four successive failed rains. This is the worst drought the region has suffered in decades.The international community has a duty to keep the promises it has made to the world’s most vulnerable citizens and must urgently get the Sustainable Development Goals commitment to end hunger by 2030 back on track and boost funding to tackle the crisis.”

- Tufail Hussain, Director of Islamic Relief UK

Donate to Islamic Relief here

International Rescue Committee - 'the time to avert a catastrophe is now'

"More than 18 million people in the region are suffering from extreme hunger. By the time a famine is declared, it will already be too late - thousands would have lost their lives - many of whom would be severely malnourished children.

The time to avert a catastrophic famine is now and there is no time to waste. As per IRC's crisis alert launched last week, we are urging the international community to step up to support people in East Africa with more attention and more funding towards the humanitarian response plan which is still severely underfunded.

A system wide scale up of the humanitarian response is needed - we must apply lessons from the famine of 2011 and invest in proven solutions such as IRC's combined protocol to avert further suffering and loss of life."

- Shashwat Saraf. Emergency Director of International Rescue Committee

Donate to International Rescue Committee here

Action Against Hunger - 'increase funding and ensure strong health systems'

Action Against Hunger Somalia has identified gaps which need to be filled to help start to solve this crisis:

1. Moderately Acutely Malnourished (MAM) service supplies need to be provided.

We need to ensure people who are moderately malnourished have access to nutrition preventions before they become severely acutely malnourished (SAM). At the moment, the shortage of MAM services due to lack of supplies has led to gaps in coverage of MAM services and prevention services all over Somalia.

2. Increase humanitarian funding

Funding levels are way below those in 2017. The current funding situation is more comparable to 2011 (at the moment only 30% of the humanitarian response plan is funded).

In 2011 funding was slow to come in (like now) until famine was declared with devastating consequences including 260,000 deaths.

3. Ensure strong health systems as disease cases are rising

Drought-affected districts reported 7,527 cholera cases, including 20 deaths by the end of June. Somalia is facing a measles outbreak in drought impacted areas because vaccination rates have dropped.

Donate to Action Against Hunger here

Additional reporting by producer Roohi Hasan