Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

FCA granted 400,000 euros to assist East Africa suffering from a food shortage — Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

The worst drought in four decades along with inflation and problems with the availability of imported cereals (accelerated by the war in Ukraine) are causing the food shortage in the Horn of Africa. Within a short time, the price of a grocery shopping basket has risen by 36% in Somalia.

EAST AFRICA has been hit by the worst drought in four decades. The extreme weather caused by climate change has impacted Somalia, the eastern parts of Ethiopia and northern Kenya in particular. These regions have not seen normal seasonal rain for almost two years.

According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to a quarter (approximately 4.1 million) of the Somali population need urgent humanitarian food aid. By some NGO estimates, this figure is over six million people. In Kenya, more than two million people need food aid. According to estimates by experts, up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia. As the drought continues, the humanitarian disaster is expected to grow and spread.

somalinaiset istuvat maassa. Taustalla näkyy teltta.
PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Drought is not the only factor affecting the food shortage in Somalia and Kenya; rather, what is at stake is a multiple crisis which has been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well. As much as 90 per cent of the cereals consumed in Somalia are imported from Ukraine and Russia. Since February, the price of wheat has risen in Somalia by as much as 300 per cent.

In April, Finn Church Aid (FCA) granted 400,000 euros for a humanitarian relief operation in Kenya and Somalia. Now we have started our operation.

Food prices sky-rocketed after the war broke out in Ukraine

Ikali Karvinen is the country Director of FCA Somalia. He has been following very closely the dramatic impact of inflation on the price of food and the effects of drought on the food crisis.

“Because of inflation, the price of food has gone up by 30 per cent,” he says. “The same goes for the price of fuel.”

The price of essential foods like cooking oil, maize, millet, sesame seeds, peas and beans has even doubled in places. Approximately 70 per cent of the Somali population lives below the poverty line, meaning people live on less than two euros a day. As the value of money falls due to inflation, the little money will buy even less of anything: for example, food. Indeed, inflation combined with drought has been estimated to impact the lives of up to six million people in Somalia.

“While the climate crisis is greatly impacting especially East Africa, this particular spring the war in Ukraine is impacting food and energy inflation possibly the most,” says Director Karvinen. “So, here we now have two major crises overlapping each other.”

Somalinainen pitää sylissään vauvaa. Kuvassa myös toinen lapsi.
Food crisis is affecting more than a quarter of Somalia’s population. The children under the age of five are among those most affected. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

He continues by saying the nomadic shepherd population in Somalia is currently in a very dire situation. The drought is killing the cattle and along with their cattle, families are losing their livelihoods. The threat for Somalia is that a situation like the 2011 famine will repeat itself.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, FCA began distributing cash aid. This is a fast and humane way of helping which saves on the cost of logistics.

“Cash aid works as long as there are markets, be they shops or marketplaces, where people can buy food and other basic supplies and where money has some value,” Director Karvinen explains.

Great part of Somali people depend on their animals and agriculture. They are in a very vulnerable position in the times of drought. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

The falling value of money can become a problem for cash aid distributions, however.

“If inflation continues to rise at this rate, we will face some serious questions,” Director Karvinen continues. “Will it make sense to continue with cash aid or will we be forced to start distributing food at some point?”

Lapsi katsoo äitinsä sylistä Somaliassa. Lapsen ympärillä on äidin vaatetta.
In Somalia, food and cash distributions have been hindered by the security situation. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Food distributions demand logistics

Food distribution demands logistics. In Somalia, the process can be hindered by the security situation which is currently extremely bad according to Director Karvinen. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is also continuing to spread in East Africa.

By mid-summer, the humanitarian operation of FCA will seek to distribute cash aid to the areas most affected by the food shortage; this will include 700 Somali and 600 Kenyan households. The operation aims to reach especially those families who have had to leave their homes due to the disaster and those most threatened by malnutrition. Households that rely on widowed women or children for their subsistence are at the very heart of FCA relief work.

Contact information:

Ikali Karvinen, Country Director for Somalia, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050, tel. +252 617 234 597.

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa 

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa

The worst drought in forty years is hitting East Africa, pushing many in the region to the brink of famine. Despite the situation, governments across the Europe, including Finland, are cutting funding from development budgets and reallocating it to Ukraine. Tackling one crisis at the cost of another is not a sustainable solution.

IN KENYA, an assessment conducted by Finn Church Aid (FCA) revealed that some main water sources – rivers, boreholes, water pans and shallow wells – have insufficient water for both humans and livestock. Many boreholes are already dry, forcing people to travel over seven kilometers to collect water. Almost one million head of livestock have died in Garissa county in Kenya. 

In Somalia, armed clashes, terrorist attacks, growing prices of food commodities are increasing the hardship caused by the drought.

“Aid actors are afraid that violence is making access to hard-to-reach communities even more limited, even to assess what the needs are, and we fear the worst,” said Ikali Karvinen, FCA Country Director, Somalia. 

Climate change is a man-made crisis

FCA is assisting people in Kenya and Somalia with cash transfers, particularly to families without adult members or those headed by pregnant or lactating mothers, which will allow these people to buy food until the rainy season. However, the World Food Programme reports that 13 million people are facing acute food insecurity and severe water shortages in East Africa.

“This is another man-made crisis, just like Ukraine, except that the cause of the drought is climate change,” said Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA. “Those of us who still remember the famine in Ethiopia in the ‘80s are haunted by it. This is a similar event across a larger scale, but we have the means to prevent the suffering that the ‘80s famine caused.” 

“I have eight children. This drought has affected my family greatly. There are days we go without eating. Life is tough here. Sometimes the food we get here is rice and beans”, said Fatuma Garane, a widow from Balambala, Garissa County, in Kenya. PHOTO: BRIAN OTIENO/FINN CHURCH AID

While climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of weather events, the funding needed to aid those who suffer is decreasing. Simultaneously, governments in Europe are reallocating funding to Ukraine. In 2017, 10% of development funding from Finland was spent on humanitarian programmes. In 2022, it is anticipated to be only 7% with the Finnish government planning to further slash aid levels for 2023.

Tackling one crisis while increasing instability somewhere else is not a sustainable solution. Concurrently these decisions seriously harm the relations created with developing countries. 

“Developed countries, those who are largely responsible for climate change, must take responsibility for this. We must help those who are suffering because of it,” said Hemberg. 

Contact information:


Executive Director, Mr. Jouni Hemberg, jouni.hemberg[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +358 50 325 9579


FCA’s Somalia Country Director, Mr. Ikali Karvinen, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +252 617 234 597, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050