Tearing the Band-Aid: Putting People at the Center of the Humanitarian System – Kenya

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Hunger in East Africa doubles in a year with response described as ‘grossly inadequate’

The international community’s response to early warning signs of a hunger crisis in East Africa has been described as ‘grossly inadequate’ as hunger has more than doubled in a year, according to an analysis by the international development charity Christian Aid.

In a report titled Ripping off the Band Aid, Christian Aid warns that hunger has “more than doubled in a year”. On World Humanitarian Day 2021, 2.1 million people in Kenya faced food insecurity, while 4.1 million Kenyans faced the same fate in 2022.

In Ethiopia, the number of people facing food insecurity has increased dramatically, from 5.2 million to 20 million. Across Ethiopia and South Sudan, the UN reports that funding shortfalls have forced cuts in rations, incomplete food baskets and fewer people being helped.

The analysis also shows that the catastrophic impact on crops, livestock and pastures has been compounded by other shocks, including conflict, floods, locust infestations, the lingering effects of Covid on prices and supply chains now disrupted.

Christian Aid warns that the crisis in East Africa has shown that the aid system is not suited to respond to the ever-increasing scale of emerging crises. To break the cycle of food hunger, the charity says now is the time to “rip the bandage”.

Development agency calls for scaling up local approaches that build on existing capacities and local knowledge to build resilience and create the flexibility needed to respond quickly to changing needs in East Africa and beyond .

Highlighting the work of their local partner Community Initiative Facilitation and Assistance (CIFA), Christain Aid’s partner in Kenya, Christian Aid says their experience of building community resilience through a partnership approach is working.

Despite the persistence of drought, a group of women working with CIFA have been able to maintain the productivity of their land to support livestock and the local fodder market through investments in improving their land in 2021.

The group successfully planted grasses and sold three harvests of hay, each time making a profit above its forecast. They also sell firewood from the ground in the local market.

Mbaraka Fazal, who is based in Kenya and is Christian Aid’s Global Humanitarian Manager, says:

“The hunger crisis has forced men and boys to walk further to find water and pasture, exacerbated conflicts over these scarce resources and put women and girls at greater risk of being left behind. for longer periods without regular income or basic items.

“In a world where there is enough food for everyone, it is a moral outrage that people are starving.

“While helping people currently facing life-threatening hunger is of the utmost importance, we also need to start thinking longer term. We have to accept that the aid system is only an unsuitable band-aid to respond to the ever-increasing scale of emerging crises.

“Christian Aid’s experience of working with local partner organizations in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan shows that people’s ability to withstand crop failures and rising food prices can be significantly improved through supportive preventive action.

“To break the cycle of food hunger, it is time to take off the band-aid and invest in building resilient communities during and between crises. This requires government-backed funding and local knowledge to complement early warning systems and anticipatory measures.

ENDS.

Notes to Editors:

Report linked here.

Response from Christian Aid:

In Ethiopia, Christian Aid programming supports resilience and basic needs during drought. Local partner organizations working with Christian Aid build the resilience of farmers, herders and vulnerable people with food and veterinary support for animals; Potable water access ; and seeds, tools and money.

In northern Kenya, Christian Aid works through partners to ensure people and animals have access to water; distributing cash to families to meet basic needs; and supporting animal health to build resilience to drought conditions.

In South Sudan, Christian Aid is responding to conflict-induced displacement and the effects of this season’s rains with unconditional cash to prepare communities for the next planting season and to meet the basic needs of displaced people.

Recommendations:

To national governments:

  • Support responses that place community resilience at the center of all phases, from relief to recovery and reconstruction. Use conflict-sensitive processes and consider the specific needs of various groups, such as displaced people and host communities, as well as farmers and pastoralists.

  • Provide appropriate budgetary support for the development of agriculture and livestock, to recognize the disproportionate role of agriculture and livestock in the economies of East Africa and therefore in the resilience of communities. This support must promote, through subsidies if necessary, agro-ecological approaches adapted to the nature and current realities of the market in terms of access to agricultural inputs.

  • Integrate adaptation into local and national development plans, with a focus on improving resilience, such as improving access to water and rangelands. This requires budget support; a promising example is Kenya’s County Climate Change Funds (CCCFs), which provide funding and training for adaptation activities and help communities connect vertically with the county and national government.

  • Provide adequate social protection funding and support to address the impacts of crises, especially for vulnerable people and for households that lose their livelihoods and assets. Prioritize working with donor governments to create sustainability plans so that social protection systems are supported by national budgets.

To donor governments and international institutions:

  • Support humanitarian response at the speed and scale needed. All funds available in the humanitarian and development funding pipelines must immediately flow to the front line given the scale of the need.

  • Giving funding alone is not enough; donors must ensure that transformative practices are followed in line with Grand Bargain 2.0 commitments. Funding should be flexible, multi-year and predictable, with pre-funding available to respond to early warnings with proactive action. It must be delivered through equitable local partnerships, with support for the leadership and delivery capacity of local responders, and the participation of affected communities.

  • Support the scaling up of local approaches to humanitarian response to complement traditional response approaches, such as Survivor and Community-Led Response, which build on the natural strengths and cohesion of communities to enable them to respond quickly to their needs using their existing capacity, knowledge and opportunities.

  • Support and encourage a joint approach between humanitarian, development, disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, positioning early warning and early action as a resilience approach. Carefully consider the timelines of the responses needed to ensure that the different funding mechanisms are coherent and layered to best respond to the crisis, recovery and resilience-building phases.

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