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Hunger: The most undignified suffering

North & East Africa

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Food insecurity is not new, but the severity has increased in Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda. While monitoring the situation induced by the lack of rainfall for four seasons, we find that our operational regions of South Sudan, Kenya, and West Nile, have the highest levels of malnutrition in the African continent. Famine is a depletion of people living—generations die off weekly.

As concern for people's access to affordable, nutritious food grows in many parts of the world, Communications Director, Thomas, shares how we can act now to avoid the starvation of millions:

In Kapoeta, South Sudan, the first rainfall in 18 months is a cause for celebration. Even so, the soil of farm fields is bone dry. The country's World Food Program (WFP) director, Adeyinka Badejo, reported the suspension of aid that affects 2 million people in South Sudan. So why are foods not mobilized for those starving? Simply because of rising fuel and food costs due to the war in Ukraine as East Africa imports 90% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

"We have to take from the hungry to feed the starving," shared the WFP director. "Because if you are surviving on one meal a day and even that one meal is no longer there, then you are facing famine… The needs in South Sudan are enormous… You have three years of unprecedented floods in South Sudan. You have the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now we are seeing a consequence of the war in Ukraine."

Many aid groups ration food amid rising costs, raised tariffs, and fatigued donor-ship.

The crisis has sent the cost of basic food soaring nearly 100% in South Sudan. Natural disasters, civil war, a lack of resources, locust swarms, disease outbreaks, and an international crisis all add to the starvation of nations like South Sudan. To contribute to these woes, the East African Community Council of Ministers adopted a resolution to increase the Common External Tariff to 35% starting July 1 for all non-member states. So today, we see meat products, cereals, edible oils, fruits, clothes - even aid of international humanitarian groups - being taxed. 

The tariffs are meant to promote the local economy to avoid a regional economic collapse. MERCY PARTNERS has long held that empowering local economies protects them from the competition of cheap imports, including aid, and is a key to sustainable living. However, this time is different; the resolution will backfire on the region, given the limited capacity of local industries to satisfy the high demand during a global food crisis and increasing economic tightening. Moreover, import tariffs may not create significant changes for a small economy like Uganda but rather a loss in welfare. Why? Because tariffs increase the price of imported inputs and, in turn, increase the cost of locally produced goods. For now, many local workers can adjust production in the short term; however, it is not sustainable as villagers lack funds. Unfortunately, South Sudan, one of the least industrial nations in the region, is the least prepared.

As a result, one-third of South Sudanese are now cut off entirely from food rations, while more than 60% of the 11 million population face severe food insecurity.

Sami, a worker at a refugee camp, shares:

"I find the mother of one of the children sitting by her five-year-old son's small, freshly dug grave," he said. "Her three other children, all very thin and weak, sit at the entrance of the family's improvised shelter."

So the question that should concern us all is: What can we do to avoid repeating the East African food crisis of 2011? The food crisis has not yet been called, but the populations suffering will be larger than those of the 2011 crisis. Five million in Ethiopia and Kenya face food insecurity. Yemen has over 23 million people in urgent need of food. Eleven million South Sudanese face food insecurity, just one nation that's recently hit the international news.

Decisive action is needed early, rather than responding when the crisis has happened. We must be working toward building community resilience. It calls for us to strike a balance between sustainable aid and immediate care. Immediate implementation will prevent a crisis. Prevention is better than cure. To further state the point, response to a food crisis costs 3x more than empowering the community. Although in 2011, we were not afforded the luxury of prevention, in many nations today there is still time.

Our Response to the Crisis: 

The Russian invasion after a pandemic was a surprise that prompted a growing concern for finding new solutions to the food crisis in North & East Africa. Immediately we connected with our Global Partner in West Nile, on the border of South Sudan, and began to assess and brainstorm. Within weeks we had the permission of the Government of Uganda to begin production of food products in preparation for the famine in all of North Africa. This month, we will feed thousands at a fraction of the cost, direct with grain from Africa, cutting dependency on foreign sources, bypassing tariffs and spoiled food aid from foreign nations. The work will empower the local economy and villages. In Arabic, we have printed on each grain bag: "Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows," - Jesus, Matthew 10:31. In areas of conflict, the message speaks loud to those cared for and loved by the church families that we mobilize to provide care.  

Currently, we are at total capacity in pre-positioning corn-soy and seek to maintain the momentum.

Our goal for August 2022 impacts the souls of those residing in the world's largest refugee settlement, Bidi Bidi, in West Nile. As of this posting, we are halfway to meeting our goal of feeding 2,000 refugees. By contributing to our Food Project with 35 USD, you will feed one family for five days (Click here: FEED a FAMILY). Together we are MERCY PARTNERS! 


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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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