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Conflicts Deplete World Food Supply As Famine ‘Tsunami’ Approaches

Photo: Thomas Kilian for MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Gambella, Ethiopia, on the border of South Sudan.

3 mins 9 secs read

The Ukraine crisis has choked media bandwidth from reporting a global crisis that will soon have devastating consequences. After three seasons of failed rains, the Horn of Africa has plunged into a fourth drought unprecedented since the early 80s. Somalia and certain parts of Ethiopia and Kenya are already strained as they have barely begun to recover from the 2016 - 2017 drought. Adding to the undercurrent, Somalia has been at war for three decades, leaving millions of people in lasting need.

MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Matar, a nomadic friendly village on the boarder of South Sudan in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia and Kenya have experienced a food shortage this past year, and five million are already in jeopardy. Although, traditionally, agriculture and pastoral work in these nations contend with arid soil and have adapted well, what makes today unusual is the frequency of droughts. After losing everything,

farmers and pastoralists leave for makeshift settlements across their country. In 2011 a famine crisis starved 260,000 people to death; sadly, indicators predict an upcoming 2.0 version of 2011 as aid organizations lack resources.

To understand why the scenario is mounting, you only need to scan the headlines and look at the geography of where the world breadbaskets are located. Land in Russia and Ukraine produces 25-30% of the world's grain. As tanks crush wheat, and combine operators drop in ditches, world humanitarian aid is compromised. Food surplus is being depleted by the Russian invasion, Afghan, and Ethiopian conflicts, with little to spare for famine's new wave of causalities. Fortunately, parties in war within Yemen, where over 23 million people need humanitarian assistance, have agreed to a cease-fire for the health of the nation. The truce will practically reverse the Yemen crisis. However, current aid operations will collapse despite the positive momentum we are seeing in Yemen today unless donors step up for the 4.3 billion dollar need.

MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Children play with clay in Dafur, Sudan.

Can hard work be the fix?

Regardless of the people's determination, natural famine disaster is on the horizon. The drought has caused African markets (such as in northern Kenya) to crumble, making traditional cash aid useless. Places like Western Equatoria, South Sudan, declare cultivation days, calling on its citizens to embark on farming as the rainy season approaches; however, drought stifles their ambition. 

What about world organizations?

Resources are strained and limited. Food costs are surging across North and East Africa due to the record high grain prices due to the Russian invasion. Though the US has mentioned releasing aid to "asking nations," nothing has been budgeted.

"Donors are experiencing compassion fatigue, which limits our ability to assist, resulting in people's starvation."

MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Family cooks oil-fried maze dough into fluffy cakes in Pajok, South Sudan.

What about the existing food?

Where there is food, there are also issues. Reports stream in of farm produce spoiling due to inaccessibility to the market as civil war, communal violence, and fuel prices increase. Kenya's rural areas, once politically marginalized, experience weak markets and trade links. Meanwhile, in Uganda, there is stifling food storage in rural communities, with crops ceasing because of drought and fuel costs out of reach to access food.

The psychological strain of food insecurities becomes an inward and outward battle. Many starve due to communal fighting. This month, April 2022, seventy-one people were reported slaughtered in cattle raids in South Sudan counties (Leer, Nyirol, and Magwi) subjected to drought and food insecurity.

"This past week, seven South Sudanese refugee children were rescued within a northern settlement after a teen girl set a house on fire over starvation."

MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Juba, South Sudan, destroys well-established settler camps outside the city.

Even stable settlements of those displaced are also compromised. Those on the go squeeze into displacement camps on the periphery of urban centers, with no animals left. Such resettlement gives little chance for people to resume their former lives. Furthermore, the land is often subjected to being reclaimed for development.

Overall Picture:  

Aid agencies report a 96% shortage of funds for adequate drought response. Yet, the humanitarian crisis will soon bleed into an unprecedented famine crisis needing a large-scale reaction where there are no resources.

MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Founder, Tom Kilian, praying over starving South Sudanese man after delivering food relief (2011).

Our Action: 

We are already there. We are improving drought action in places like Uganda, which has not yet been hit with total famine. Responding early to immediate needs, doubling down on farming and food access, and investing in the local church to reduce food prices. Meeting the needs of people during drought is the new normal.

"It means that the traditional oscillation between drought and primary humanitarian responses transitions into empowering locals to sustain themselves and their communities."

MERCYPARTNERS © 2022 - Widow receives corn-soy in our annual food relief within West Nile.

You can make an impact with us:

Our feeding programs provide much-needed survival food to the vulnerable, displaced people of West Nile, East Africa. The immediate-care beneficiaries include sexual-crime victims, women, children, the disabled, and the deaf.

"Our global partners preposition food supply every 30 days. They secure raw materials and employ local hands to process grains to produce corn-soy at a reduced cost regardless of the drought."

As little as 1.40 a day can feed someone in desperate need. Choose your level of support at the donation link below.

We share from the same plate. Give food today: 


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Thomas, Communications Director for Mercy Partners


Thomas Kilian III, as Communications Director, has personal relationships with our Global Partners having traveled to most of our mission points. He holds a Bachelor of Science, with high honor, and is a candidate for Masters of Theology from NationsUniversity. He's an Ordained Minister and is the author of the book, Start being, Stop Doing (

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