More than 20 million people face starvation and famine in East Africa. Discover more about the crisis, the impact of food shortages on older people, and how you can help.
Why are people going hungry in East Africa?
Drought - caused by an El Niño weather phenomenon - has destroyed harvests, leaving people malnourished and desperate.
80-year-old Sadire remembers how it all began. 'The rainfall stopped. The farm animals had to be sold - first the goats and sheep and then the bulls and cows,' she says.
'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. I feel so helpless and alone. I fear for our survival.'
£30 could feed two older people, for a month >
Famine declared in South Sudan
Pictured: Angelina (64) in a camp for displaced people in South Sudan.
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
In South Sudan, drought has been made worse by 3 years of conflict. Violence has forced thousands to flee from their homes.
'My husband was killed in the war so now I’m alone with the children,' Angelina explains. 'Seeing my children almost starve always makes me stressed and uncomfortable. We wouldn’t survive without the aid we’re given.'
Older people struggling without food and water
Pictured: Emayu (60) says 'This is the worst drought I have experienced in a long time’.
73% of older people in East 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.
£40 could buy drought-resistant seeds for 2 older farmers >
Not everyone can travel those long distances. 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.'
Our partners on the ground are reporting that older people are being left behind by families who leave in search of water and food, with many even left to care for small children who also can't make the journey.
'We're becoming weaker and weaker'
Pictured: Oboch (86) says 'We’re extremely helpless’.
'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.'
86-year-old Oboch adds: 'We’re extremely helpless. We’re becoming weaker and weaker due to a lack of good food.'
Age International in East Africa
Pictured: 100 year-old Jilo sitting outside her house with her daughter Keble.
Age International helps older people to survive emergencies; we seek out the most vulnerable and provide age-friendly emergency aid. We are currently:
- Getting food such as haricot beans and maize to malnourished older people
- Giving out cash and vouchers so they can access clean water, buy food and care for their family
- Providing drought resistant seeds so farmers can regrow their crops
- Running a life stock exchange scheme so older people can sell their weak animals
- Training humanitarian staff on the needs of older people
We have already:
- Distributed drought-resistant seeds for planting
- Repaired and improved wells and land-pumps
- Given out water purification chemicals and water collection and storage materials
We are currently reaching older people in:
- South Sudan
During emergencies like this, older people are particularly vulnerable; they have specialist nutritional needs and they can't always travel the long distances needed to find food and water.