Nearly 350 million people across Africa — a quarter of the continent’s people — face  severe food insecurity as soaring wheat prices follow failed rains, COVID-19, and desert locusts, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned yesterday. At least 27 million African currently face hunger, a number that could rise to 38 million by June, Oxfam said earlier this week, due to below-average rainfall  Drought currently covers approximately 90% of Somalia, where 650,000 livestock perished in February alone and 1.4 million children are on the brink of acute malnutrition.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is making things worse by impeding the wheat trade. Wheat accounts for a third of the average national cereal consumption in East Africa, up to 90% of which is met by imports primarily from Russia and Ukraine and wheat prices have skyrocketed 80% since the invasion.

Colonial impacts

“The brutal truth is at the moment Africa is not on the global agenda,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International “2022 cannot be the year in which hundreds of thousands die from an avoidable hunger crisis in East Africa.” Last month, after 30 years the IPCC finally used the word “colonialism” in its sixth assessment report. The panel’s working group two report, which looked at the impacts of climate change on people, listed colonialism not only as a driver of the climate crisis but also as an ongoing issue that is exacerbating communities’ vulnerability to it.

The famine that has been triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine is also a direct result in the failure of international efforts to tackle the climate crisis and to step up action on climate adaptation and mitigation in an equitable manner. “Trauma is real and people are suffering in silence,” Jane Meriwas, executive director of the Samburu Women Trust in Kenya, said last month. “Let’s not close our eyes and say that Africa is not suffering and focus a lot on Ukraine. Let’s not turn a blind eye to this crisis because all of us are equal.” (ICRC: Reuters, The Root, Wall Street Journal $; Oxfam: Deutsche Welle; Africa food insecurity: The Conversation, Politico; Climate Signals background: Drought)