The Africa Food Crisis: Millions are facing extreme hunger

Drought and conflict have left record numbers of people in the Horn of Africa in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

We must act now.

Ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa has left 18 million people facing severe hunger.

Men in a village devastated by drought in southwestern Ethiopia. Photo: Zacharias Abubeker/Caritas Australia.
Failed crops in southwestern Ethiopia. Photo: Zacharias Abubeker/Caritas Australia.

Four consecutive failed rainy seasons have devastated the crops of millions across the region.

Communities across eastern Africa are facing hunger caused by conflict and one of the worst droughts in 40 years.

As international food and fuel prices skyrocket because of COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine, vulnerable families are being left behind. 

Many of the most vulnerable are facing hunger and even starvation after another year of failed crops, forcing them to slaughter or sell any remaining livestock. 

The drought situation will continue to drive high humanitarian needs well into 2023, with a high likelihood of a sixth failed season.

We must act now.  

Your generous donation today means our partners in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea can respond quickly to support vulnerable communities during this crisis.


Ayoyo, a complaints volunteer in her community in southwestern Ethiopia. Photo: Zacharias Abubeker/Caritas Australia.

What's happening: East Africa Food Crisis

Over 81.6 million people are facing high acute food insecurity across eastern Africa.

The region is facing multiple challenges at once: drought, flooding, rising food and fuel prices, COVID-19, locust plagues and ongoing conflict and displacement.

  • Approximately 7 million children under 5 years are acutely malnourished in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia - this includes more than 1.7 million with severe acute malnutrition.
  • In Ethiopia, communities continue to suffer from the devastating drought affecting the Horn of Africa and are bracing for a likely fifth consecutive failed season – with the October- December 2022 rains beginning poorly and forecasts indicating they are likely to underperform.

Food and fuel prices were already on the rise, but basic goods are now unaffordable for most rural families. 

Displacement across the region is making the situation even harder. 

  • In northern Ethiopia, large camps of people who have been forced from their homes by conflict are living in poor conditions with limited access to adequate shelter, sanitation and food.
  • Tens of thousands of displaced families are unable to sow crops during the current rainy season - reducing next year's harvest even more. 

Your generosity means that our partners in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea can respond quickly to this unfolding humanitarian crisis.


Woman making injera in an IDP camp in northern Ethiopia. Photo: Caritas Australia.

You can help people facing extreme hunger. Make a donation today.

I would like to give

can provide drought-resistant seeds for a family

Other amount

Can provide urgent support to families in need

Donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible

Hear from Caritas Australia CEO Kirsty Robertson as she visits communities in Ethiopia impacted by the food crisis

"The drought has destroyed all of our crops and left us very hungry, we have nothing to eat. Before when I had my husband he could support me, but now as a widow I don’t have any support. Without Caritas, my children might have died."


Community Complaints Volunteer


Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in nearly 40 years, with an estimated 20 million people in need of urgent assistance. This is on top of one of the worst locust swarms in the past decade and ongoing conflict that has displaced thousands of vulnerable people. It is estimated that more than 4.5 million livestock have died since late 2021, and at least 30 million weakened and emaciated livestock are at risk. 


Somalia is on the brink of famine, with nearly 8 million people facing extreme hunger and food insecurity. The last famine declared in Somalia, in 2011, killed a quarter of a million people. Unless urgent action is taken, Somalia may face a catastrophic humanitarian disaster.


More than 4.35 million people in Kenya are at risk of severe hunger, particularly up north in areas such as Marsabit. A national state of disaster has been declared with vulnerable communities struggling to access food and clean water. 


Our partners are on the ground to support communities affected by the African food crisis, providing:

Emergency food rations

Safe, clean water

Emergency cash transfers

Support to families forced from their homes by conflict

Woman with her family in an IDP camp in northern Ethiopia. Photo: Caritas Australia.

Many families that have long struggled to grow enough to eat will soon find themselves with no food at all.  

After three years of severe drought, crops are failing and livestock dying in droves. Families who previously relied on subsistence farming are no longer able to grow enough food to eat, let alone to sell at the markets so they can afford to buy seeds for the next season. 

Even in the best case scenario with above average rains over the coming months, it will take months for communities to recover and many families will continue to struggle until late 2023. 

When disasters strike, the steep cost of imported emergency supplies puts some of the most marginalised people at risk. We work with our partners on the ground to get food, clean water and first aid to communities as quickly as possible. 

With your help, we’re working with our partners on the ground to bring vital aid to vulnerable families in the Horn of Africa:

  • Food distributions to households at risk of malnutrition 
  • Support to children impacted by malnutrition
  • Clean drinking water and support for sanitation 
  • Cash transfers to households at risk of poverty 
  • Hygiene supplies, including soap and hand sanitisers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 
  • Seeds and household items for families impacted by conflict and displacement 

Your generous donation today means our partners across Africa can respond quickly and efficiently to support vulnerable communities during this crisis.


The current drought is the worst that Bute has ever experienced in his lifetime. Photo: Zacharias Abubeker/Caritas Australia

Bute's story - the impact of the food crisis on families across Ethiopia

Bute is a village elder living in southern Ethiopia with his wife, Burre. Bute was elected by his community members to represent their voices. They have a story they want to share with the rest of the world: they need urgent humanitarian aid now.

Before the current drought, Bute and Burre had 2,000 livestock in two stables, including donkeys, goats and cows. The grass was green and there were plenty of pasture for their livestock. They used to harvest sorghum and maize, with enough water from the nearby river to irrigate their crops.

“We used to have lots of milk and meat to eat, and now we have almost nothing. We feel very sad and frustrated. The life we used to live and enjoy is completely gone,” Bute said.

During the last three years, rainfall in this area of southern Ethiopia has been erratic, with long periods without any rain. This meant that farmers and pastoralists are unable to grow any crops or feed their livestock.

Bute and Burre’s seven adult children have left in search of food and it has been more than a year since they last saw them. 

With your support, Caritas Australia is working with Caritas Ethiopia to provide urgent food and emergency water to drought-affected communities.

“We pray and hope for rain. We appeal for people to give us food because here there is continuous drought, we can’t farm, there is no rain. We have no other chance except for this help.”


How you can help fight famine



Email your local MP

Join the Help Fight Famine campaign and call on the Australian government to act now. Write to your local MP and ask that the government commit $150 million to help avert catastrophe in the worst-affected hunger hotspots in the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria.

Email your local MP

Donate to help families in need

Your donation can help provide urgent aid and assistance to vulnerable communities affected by the food crisis. Your support can provide life-saving essentials, such as food rations, clean water and emergency cash. 

Donate now

Share this page