Britain must help tackle the root causes of East Africa’s hunger crisis to break the deadly cycle, Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell has said.
He will today announce £143 million in humanitarian aid for the region, as the UK co-hosts a UN Horn of Africa pledging event in New York.
Millions are fighting for survival as countries including Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya face the worst drought in 40 years.
Mr Mitchell, the Minister for Development and Africa, said he had seen first-hand the devastating impact of starvation. He wrote in the Daily Express: “The sad truth is that in moments of crisis, the most vulnerable are often the hardest hit.
“The good news is that we are in a position to help prevent further suffering, but the window is narrow and we must act fast.”
READ MORE: Medics bring children back from the brink of starvation in Somalia
Mr Mitchell added: “This funding will help millions, but if we want to break the cycle of crises, we must tackle their root causes.”
The UN has estimated that a total of $7 billion (£5.65bn) is needed to fund the humanitarian response needed in the Horn of Africa this year. At least 43 million people were said to require assistance, including 23 million facing food shortages.
Of the UK’s £143 million contribution, £96m will go to the drought-impacted countries of the Horn. This includes £42m for Ethiopia and £5.8m for Kenya.
Some £48m will go to Somalia, where a Daily Express team recently witnessed the impact of drought on desperate families who have been forced to leave their homes in search of aid.
The money will help provide cash support, water and sanitation services, and specialized health and nutrition treatment. It will also fund efforts to boost the climate resilience of communities and assistance for people displaced by extreme weather.
The UK, US and Qatar have together committed £8.4 million for a dedicated program to build drought resilience in Somalia, with the UK contributing £2m.
Britain will also pledge £21.7 million for humanitarian aid in Sudan in the wake of a destructive civil war.
In a video statement to the UN conference, Mr. Mitchell will call for long-term solutions including sustainable development and measures to help communities adapt to climate change.
He said: “The Horn of Africa faces one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in the world. The catastrophic drought over the last two years has brought unimaginable suffering and millions cannot access adequate water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
“As we’ve sadly seen in Sudan, conflict across East Africa is tearing apart communities, with women and girls bearing the brunt of the violence.
“Our funding could not come at a more critical moment, and it is clear that we must act now, and do all we can to save lives.”
Callum Northcote, head of hunger and nutrition at Save the Children, welcomed the funding but warned it should only be “a starting point.”
He said: “The job is far from done and given the scale of need, this cannot signal the total ambition of the UK Government. In 2017, when governments acted to prevent famine in parts of East Africa, the UK contributed over £800m. Today they have pledged just a fraction of this.
“In times of crisis the international community needs to step up, not step back. We urge the government to restore its aid budget so that the UK can play its role in averting disaster.”