WASHINGTON- Millions of children are facing starvation across East Africa as the food crisis reaches a tipping point, warns Plan International. A spotlight was thrown on the crisis on Monday when South Sudan declared famine in Unity state. It is the first time in six years that a famine has been declared in any part of the world.
Over 20 million people, including millions of children across Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia are in urgent need of food. In South Sudan alone, 4.9 million people - more than 40 percent of country’s population - urgently need food, agriculture, and nutrition assistance.
Plan International is extremely concerned about the plight of children caught up in the crisis: “This is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters unfolding before our eyes in current times. Millions of children are facing starvation with many at risk of death. We must act now to save lives,” said Roland Angerer, Plan International’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Plan International has been working in South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia providing urgent food supplies and lifesaving humanitarian support to children and families. It is particularly concerned about the impact of the emergency on girls who often suffer the worst consequences during disaster situations.
“Boys and girls constitute the majority of displaced populations. We know from experience that girls are the ones who suffer most in these situations: in addition to the lack of food and water, the levels of child trafficking, sexual violence, and early marriages tend to rise significantly during times of distress. In previous situations of drought when families struggled to survive, many underage girls were sold into child marriage in exchange for livestock – there is no doubt this will happen again,” said Mr. Angerer.
In many places, such as South Sudan, the crisis has been exacerbated by conflict and economic collapse disproportionately affecting children.
Daniel Muchena, Plan International’s Country Director in South Sudan said: “There are hundreds of thousands of people who have either crossed the border into neighbouring countries or have been internally displaced due to violence. Prevailing food insecurity is making the situation worse for children. With little to eat, and their bodies less able to withstand disease, children are at risk of death from malnutrition and diseases - as much as from being caught in the crossfire.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: Plan International experts are available for media interviews.
About Plan International USA
Plan International USA, part of the Plan International Federation, is a child-centered development organization that believes in the promise and potential of children. For more than 75 years in over 50 developing countries, Plan has been breaking the cycle of child poverty. Everything Plan does – from strengthening health care systems to improving the quality of education, to advocating for increased protection and beyond – is built with, and owned by, the community. The result is a development approach designed to improve the lives of the youngest members of the community for the longest period of time. For more information, please visit PlanUSA.org.