5,000 miles of connection – why the war in Ukraine is causing starvation in the Horn of Africa

By Keith Kibirango, Director of Philanthropy and Private Sector Engagement, Crown Agents

The last two years have reminded us how connected the world is and how our lives and livelihoods depend on one another. Disruptions in supply chains during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine continues to demonstrate that what happens in one part of the world can have severe consequences in another. It is 5,000 miles between Ukraine and the Horn of Africa and yet war in Eastern Europe threatens an unprecedented famine in the Horn of Africa

The last two years have reminded us how connected the world is and how our lives and livelihoods depend on one another. Disruptions in supply chains during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine continues to demonstrate that what happens in one part of the world can have severe consequences in another. It is 5,000 miles between Ukraine and the Horn of Africa and yet war in Eastern Europe threatens an unprecedented famine in the Horn of Africa.

Coming from East Africa, I grew up accustomed to the drought that affected us when there was a lack of rain. We often had to ration food when the rains did not come in time, but we always knew they would come. When the skies grew dark, we knew it was time to start planting and watering the animals. We knew that during the rainy season, we stored away enough to take us through the leaner times. This was a well-choreographed cycle passed down from generation to generation.

For many parts of the Horn of Africa, that cycle is now broken, and the worst drought for 40 years is taking hold. Four years of failed rains have led to the worst drought in decades. People are struggling to survive, fleeing the harsh countryside and deserted villages. Many families are running out of food, and their livestock is either dying or has stopped producing food. Many parts of Kenya, Somaliland and Ethiopia have not reached the height of the dry season temperatures yet, and the drought is just beginning to take hold in terms of human impact. Against this background of extreme climate effects, we must now factor in the war in Ukraine.

Many African countries depend on grain importation from Russia and Ukraine to feed their populations. Somaliland imports ninety per cent of its grain from Ukraine and Russia. Eighty-five per cent of the wheat supply to Egypt is from Ukraine and Russia. Nigeria is the world’s four largest importer of food from Ukraine and Russia. Fourteen African countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat supply. Most of these countries have not been able to import grain from Russia or Ukraine for three months because of the blockade of the ports and the surge in prices. Their grain mills are fast becoming empty.

At Crown Agents, we are committed to coming up with answers to help save lives. Crown Agents is a not-for-profit international development organisation delivering programmes that positively impact the lives of over 108 million people across 101 countries. We have worked in Ukraine for over 25 years and across several Eastern African countries for over six decades. We have the knowledge and experience to contribute to much-needed solutions across these two different yet connected parts of the world.

Crown Agents has close working relationships with several ministries in Ukraine. We have been informed that one practical solution we can contribute to is to support the removal of unexploded mines. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have extensively used anti-vehicle mines in at least six regions: Donetsk, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa, Sumy, and Zaporizhzhia. Landmine casualties have been reported in the conflict, and evidence indicates that agricultural production is affected by landmines in fields, rural paths, and roads. As an award-winning procurement and supply organisation, Crown Agents can procure and deliver mine clearance equipment as a step towards reconstruction, saving lives and ensuring Ukraine can continue to produce much-needed grain.

Crown Agents is also working with partners and stakeholders to help address the looming famine in the Horn of Africa by responding to the urgent needs for food and nourishment in the short term. In the longer term, we will contribute to community resilience by co-designing climate-responsive solutions that predict and respond to future droughts in the Horn of Africa.

 

Editor’s Note:

Read more on Africa here.

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