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East Africa Crisis


Millions of lives still at risk in East Africa

A deadly combination of failed rains, conflict and rising food prices in 2011 has left over 13 million people – many of them children - facing a devastating food crisis. Families have lost their incomes and food supplies, millions of children face starvation, and many have already lost their lives.

Over the last six months, Save the Children has reached 2.5 million people with food, clean water and healthcare, saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. But the situation is still acute and a quarter of a million people face starvation this year. Save the Children cannot and will not stop our lifesaving work until the time when we are no longer needed.


  Crisis in East Africa (Jan Grarup)
A small girl arriving at the border with her two younger brothers. Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, October 2011. Photo by Jan Grarup / Save the Children.



Emergency Response  

Save the Children responded rapidly to the drought. So far we have provided food, water, healthcare and crucial support to more than 2.5 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.


We have reached 272,500 people with primary health care across the region, including lifesaving treatment, vaccinations, ante and postnatal care.



We launched a massive screening and feeding program for children under five, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers in East Africa, reaching 450,800 people (including 293,000 children) with nutrition support.


We set up special education centres in refugee camps and affected communities, trained teachers and constructed permanent schools, providing essential equipment including tables, chairs, notebooks and school bags and giving 69,000 children access to education, many for the first time in their lives.



We have reached 787,000 people, urgently bringing in life-saving supplies of water, distributing hygiene kits - including jerry cans, buckets, soap and aquatabs (to make water safe), installing hand washing points and latrines in refugee camps, schools and health facilities, and creating innovative rainwater harvesting systems. Read more.


We are helping 1.3 million people (including 403,000 children) by providing immediate help and improving the ability of the most vulnerable families to cope. We provided cash to stop families having to sell their last animals, and distributed animal feed to keep the livestock healthy. We distributed seeds and fuel to help struggling farmers stay afloat and provided food vouchers to enable parents to buy fresh food and vegetables from local markets.



We established safe places for children to learn and play and access counselling and support from trained Save the Children staff. Working with clan elders, our work tracing family members and reuniting them with their children has been expanded to include foster care arrangements for separated and unaccompanied children. We have reached 104,400 people (including 77,700 children) with our vital child protection work and we will continue to protect children across East Africa from physical and sexual abuse, hazardous labour, trafficking and gender-based violence.


Recovery Program
Across the region, in addition to our life-saving work, we are investing in building the resilience of communities in drought-prone areas, through programmes that mitigate the effects of drought and enable families to cope better and recover faster. We often refer to this work as ‘disaster risk reduction’ activities, and they are absolutely critical.

  • In Somalia, we will be working within a recognized cashand voucher program that works with  women in poor families to help protect them against more extreme vulnerability – this accords a level of dignity and choice in what food, medicine and other essential supplies they can purchase and prevents families from having to resort to selling productive assets such as livestock in order to buy food.  It can also enable them to invest in assets that will help support themselves in the future.
  • In Ethiopia, we are directly supporting the ‘Productive Safety Net Programme’ which in total reaches over 7.5 million chronically food insecure people through asset protection mechanisms that build their ability to cope with extreme shocks such as this drought. We are also involved in further strengthening food security information systems (an activity we have been engaged in since the early 1970s) – to ensure we are aware of upcoming food security crises across the country.
  • In Kenya, we distribute vouchers to exchange at markets (with recognized, pre-screened vendors) for protein-rich food like meat and milk for pastoralist communities and we also work with the producers to provide them with animal husbandry support and resources.

Save the Children works closely with families and communities to build their resilience – which means that their dependence on aid will hopefully go down year after year with the right skills and support. To unlock the communities’ capacity to generate their own wealth, we must help people recover from the current crisis in a way that links them into the mainstream market so that people can sell their livestock at a decent rate and also buy food at reasonable prices. For example, Save the Children, working with the EU and WFP in Kenya, have changed the traditional food aid package – by purchasing food items from local traders, and then substituting part of the imported food aid with local, fresh, healthy produce. In doing so, we are helping the local market, local traders and local communities to flourish, as well as improving the nutrition content of food assistance baskets for those in need. 



How You Can Help

Save the Children is very grateful to our donors for their generous support. Your contributions have enabled Save the Children to launch and sustain its largest ever appeal in our 90 year history, reaching 2.5 million drought-affected people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Your continued support will ensure that we can continue to save lives by providing food and support to the people who need it most. It will also help us to rebuild communities that are better able to cope with future crises.

Donate to Our East Africa  Appeal Today.



Further Information

Report: Saving Lives in East Africa       A Dangerous Delay - Horn of Africa - Oxfam and Save the Children  

Saving Lives in East Africa:
Six months into the crisis
(January 2012)


Briefing Paper: A Dangerous Delay
(January 2012)


East Africa - One year on

(June 2012)




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