THE food crisis in East Africa (News, 29 July) was the subject of a prayer vigil on Friday, helping to highlight the problems that many bishops will return to from the Lambeth Conference.
After four failed rainy seasons, the region is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years. Already, an estimated 18.4 million people are on a restricted diet, including seven million children. Already, seven million livestock have died.
And yet the developed world was failing to take notice, the Scottish Primus, the Most Revd Mark Strange, said. “I find it staggering that we have 24-hour news going on in this country, and yet no one knows anything about the food crisis that’s taking place in East Africa.
“In 2017, we began to get signals that things weren’t right, and there are all sorts of reasons why things may be difficult to sort out, but we can’t just abandon a whole portion of the world because it doesn’t fit in with our own political agendas, or with our news of who is going to be the next Prime Minister. This is the really important stuff.”
As a consequence of the decision to suspend the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of gross domestic income on overseas aid, bilateral aid from the UK to Ethiopia was more than halved, from £241 million in 2020/21 to £108 million in 2021/22. Aid to Kenya fell from £67 million to £41 million in the same period.
In a poll of public opinion commissioned by Christian Aid, who helped to organise the vigil, only 23 per cent said that they were aware of the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, compared with 92 per cent aware of the conflict in Ukraine.
That conflict has exacerbated the situation in East Africa, holding up grain exports from Ukraine. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who took part in the vigil, said: “I continue to appeal to the governments of Ukraine and Russia, please make space for the transport of the huge amount of foodstuffs to save those caught in this famine.”
The Bishop of Abyei, in South Sudan, the Rt Revd Michael Deng Bol, said: “People in South Sudan are struggling with continuing conflict. Communities are being displaced. Drought in some regions and flooding in others means people are leaving their homes, and crops are failing. Many people no longer have any food left, and they are starving.”
Christian Aid launched its East Africa Hunger Crisis Appeal last month