Waking up to the Hunger Crisis in East Africa

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Tearfund NZ
/ Categories: Disasters and Conflict


Right now, East Africa stands on the edge of famine.

An estimated 50 million people are on the brink of famine due to conflict, climate change and the fallout of Covid-19.

This is a severe and worsening crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in four decades.

According to the UN, an estimated 17 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and hundreds of thousands are facing catastrophic hunger.

Without immediate therapeutic food and care, almost 8 million East African children under five are at risk of death from malnutrition, with the number rising daily.



Why has hunger reached such extreme levels?

Global food supply problems

People are forced to rely on expensive food imports driven by food shortages and inflation caused by Covid-19 and regional conflicts. The war in Ukraine has also played a big part in the hunger crisis. This has led to prices skyrocketing further with the cost of basic food supplies such as cooking oil and flour doubling in some countries since Russia’s invasion began. And with wheat imports being disrupted, supplies of essentials are running low.

Countries including Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan depend heavily on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia, which account for 40-90% of supplies. In these countries, families rely on wheat to meet their daily needs.


Climate change

The climate crisis has changed weather patterns in the region: The Horn of Africa has this year faced its worst drought in 40 years. With four successive failed rainy seasons, food is scarce and harvests have withered away.

For rural communities who rely on farming, the drought has made their way of life impossible. It also means that, when the rains come, the land can no longer absorb the water like it used to. This leads to flash flooding as the water has nowhere to go. Homes and the few crops or cattle left, are washed away.



Conflict is another powerful driver of the food crisis globally, responsible for the largest share of people facing life-threatening hunger (65%). Fighting in Ethiopia and Somalia for instance, has destroyed livelihoods and forced families to flee their homes.

As one of our partners shares, conflict is driving the crisis in northern Ethiopia, while drought drives the crisis in southern parts of the country. “In the past year, it is getting worse,” says Abraham Alembo, Head of Disaster Prevention and Peace Building Unit with Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission. “There is not sufficient rain and communities have missed seasonal crops for at least four consecutive seasons. The most vulnerable groups like children under five, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are in a serious condition. Many of them have been malnourished.”


In a crisis as severe as this, it can be overwhelming and hard to know what to pray for.

There are five areas we can focus our prayers on: for people affected by hunger and water shortages; for those in leadership positions; for God’s provision and love to be revealed through the church; for vulnerable adults and children; and for peace.


Pray for people affected by hunger and water shortages

- Pray for the provision of nourishing food and clean water for those in need.

- Pray for healing for those who are suffering from malnutrition and hunger, and they will feel God’s love and comfort surrounding them.

- Pray that there will be no long-term side effects or medical conditions due to hunger.

Ask God to bring much-needed rain to parts of Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Pray that this will lead to abundant harvests and for water sources to spring up again closer to communities.

Pray for world leaders and politicians

Pray that food and fuel prices will stabilise, and that provision will be made for countries in a vulnerable position.

Pray that governments in high-income nations would take notice and commit to funding and aid.

Pray for the church

Pray for the Church in the New Zealand to speak out against the injustice of the hunger crisis.

Pray that God’s power will be revealed through the church across East Africa and it will bring a message of hope amid the suffering.

Pray for vulnerable children and adults

The crisis has led to an increase in child marriages. In their desperation, parents are marrying off their daughters to wealthier families in the hope that they’ll have a better chance of survival. Pray for protection for these girls. Ask that they will be valued as God’s precious daughters by their communities.

Pray for a generation of children who are missing out on their education because parents cannot afford their school fees. Others are missing school because they are displaced, have to travel to collect water or are simply too hungry to attend.

Pregnant and nursing mothers, people with disabilities and the elderly are especially vulnerable to food shortages. Pray for God’s protection and provision over them.

Pray for peace

The shortages of resources, including food, is making conflict worse in the region. Pray for people’s safety and for peace to reign.

Pray for an end to the conflict in Ukraine, which is having a huge effect on the price of essential food supplies such as flour and cooking oil.



“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Matthew 25:35-36


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