East Africa Famine: The food is there - but no one can afford it
SOS Children is working hard to secure food for the drought victims of East Africa. Both in Kenya and Somalia there is food available in local stores, but most people cannot afford it because prices have sky-rocketed in recent months.
Combination of factors leading to price rises
The World Bank recently stated that the hunger catastrophe in the Horn of Africa is not primarily caused by a lack of food, but rather that food has become so expensive no one can afford it. Changes in climate, drought, political instability and rising prices of gas have caused the prices of food to rise. This is lethal for children. Some 29,000 children in the Horn of Africa have died from hunger-related causes during the last few months and at least 600,000 more are at great risk.
Although the drought has spoiled the harvest in many areas of East Africa, even in some of the worst-hit districts of Somalia and Northern Kenya, stores can still provide basic food supplies, but rises in food costs mean that many people simply cannot afford them. In Somalia, the price of the local corn durra has risen 240 percent. In Ethiopia maize is 86 percent more expensive now than it was a year ago, and in Kenya the price for corn has doubled.
Food vouchers for the most needy
In Kenya, SOS Children have implemented a new identification card system which gives food vouchers to vulnerable families. This ensures the food comes from local stores, but SOS Children covers the cost. Ruth Okowa, National Director of SOS Children's Villages Kenya is concerned about how the rises in food costs might affect SOS Children's Emergency Relief Programmes: "The situation is so bad that we can only fix the prices for two weeks. After that period we have to make a new agreement with the stores. We need the families to get the appropriate amount of food, and if the prices go up, we cannot supply as many people."
Ahmed Mohamed, National Director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia says a similar method is in place in Mogadishu and Baidoa, but that security is an issue: "We have to think of logistics and security. Just recently, ten people were killed when a truck with food came into the Badbado camp. Where we can, we contract local stores and give out food vouchers for the needy”, he says.
Long-term work is affected
The rising prices are also a challenge in the SOS Children's Villages across East Africa. "The SOS mothers get approximately one euro a day per child to buy food, and the mothers have to think alternatively to stay within the budget. Not to mention the families in our Family Strengthening Programmes," Ruth Okowa says. For SOS Children, the price rises pose a threat to our ongoing work, since it might force us to cut down the number of beneficiaries. "This is not at all a solution we want. Therefore we are trying all other ways," says Ruth.