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Nyadeng is living in a temporary shelter in Ehtiopia.

There is a crisis in East Africa. Drought has left 36 million people in urgent need of food aid and famine has been declared in South Sudan. Age International is helping older people to access food, water and livestock.


During emergencies like this older people are particuarly vulnerable; they have specialist nutrutuonal needs and they can't always travel the long distances needed to find food and water.

Age International helps older people to survive emergencies; we seek out the most vulnerable and provide age-friendly emergency aid.

What is famine?

A famine is only declared when there is:

  • A daily death rate of more than 2 people per 10,000
  • Acute malnutrition rates of over 30%
  • 20% of households facing extreme food shortage

Famine has been declared in South Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, where drought is being made worse by civil war.

Meanwhile, 36 million people are in urgent need of food aid in the Horn of Africa. The drought has been caused by the El Niño climate cycle. During an El Niño event, the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean can warm by 1–3°F or more, meaning some places receive more rain than usual, while others receive none at all.

The impact of the current El Niño is being felt in a number of countries from Angola to Zimbabwe; and is particularly acute in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria. In Ethiopia the rains have failed for the past 2 years; 85% of crops have failed.

The UN warns that 20 million people may face starvation over the next 6 months. Please, donate and help today.

Older people struggling without food and water

Emayu harvests firewood to sell after her crops failed

Pictured: Emayu (60) says 'This is the worst drought I have experienced in a long time’.

73% of older people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on farming to live; people like Emayu. Now, instead of farming, the 60-year-old grandmother must cut trees for firewood and then walk 3 hours to the local market.

'When I wake up each day, the first thing I think about is what my grandchildren will eat,' says Achol, a 63-year-old grandmother from South Sudan.

'It’s a daily struggle for us to get enough to survive. Sometimes they cry - and I cry too, because I feel guilty for not providing for them.'

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'We're becoming weaker and weaker'

86-year-old Oboch is interviewed about the famine in South Sudan.

Pictured: Oboch (86) says 'We’re extremely helpless’.

86-year-old Oboch says: 'We’re extremely helpless. We’re becoming weaker and weaker due to a lack of good food.'

Like food, water has also become more and more difficult to come by. It often costs money to buy water in rural villages, but over three-quarters of older people in the Horn of Africa live in chronic poverty, and most do not receive a pension.

'My feet are swollen and I've lost my sight'

Hamimi discusses the food shortages in Ethiopia

Pictured: Haimimi (75) can no longer afford to buy water from the village pump.

Those who cannot afford to buy water are forced to walk up to 30km a day to gather water from lakes and ponds that are often rife with diseases and parasites.

Not everyone is able to walk. Mary, 85, says 'I'm too weak to go to the market. My feet are swollen and I've lost my sight. It's become risky for me to go out and about.'

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'I feel so helpless and alone'

Sadire sits outside her home in Ethiopia

Pictured:Sadire (80) can only watch helplessly as everything she has is sold

80-year-old Sadire remembers how it all began. 'The rainfall stopped. With it, crop production also stopped,' she says.

'The farm animals had to be sold - first the goats and sheep and then the bulls and cows. Then, my boys started cutting down the trees on our land to make charcoal.'

'Over the past 3 years, I've seen everything that I've built all my life drift away until eventually I'm left with nothing. No animals. No cultivable land. No trees. No money. I feel so helpless and alone. I fear for our survival.'

'Seeing my children starve makes me stressed'

Angelina in a camp for displaced people, in Juba South Sudan.

Pictured: Angelina (64) in a camp for displaced people in South Sudan.

Civil war in South Sudan is making an extremely difficult situation even worse for older people.

'My husband was killed in the war so now I’m alone with the children,' Angelina explains. 'When I was younger, I built my own house, looked after my cows and bought my own clothes. Now there’s no way I can support myself.'

'Seeing my children almost starve always makes me stressed and uncomfortable. We wouldn’t survive without the aid we’re given.'

Age International is helping older people to survive

Age International is working in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen and Uganda by:

  • Providing food to malnourished people
  • Creating access to safe drinking water
  • Delivering healthcare
  • Distributing drought-resistant seeds for planting
  • Repairing and improving wells and land-pumps
  • Giving out water purification chemicals and water collection and storage materials
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East Africa Crisis

Please, donate today and help an older person in crisis. Donate now.

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This work has been funded from a range of sources, including; Age International; HelpAge Germany; and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

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