A Tooting aid worker, who has just returned from South Sudan, is asking his fellow Londoners to help East African families who are facing starvation.
Millions of families across East Africa are on the brink of starvation because drought and civil war have hit food supplies. The UN is warning that the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.
Tooting resident, Fergus Conmee, last month travelled to South Sudan to meet the communities who have been affected by the crisis. Fergus, who is Head of Africa for aid agency CAFOD, responded as the charity joined forces with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to tackle the threat of famine.
“When meeting with local health coordinators, village chiefs, men, women and children, the resounding message they all gave was: 'We are hungry, no one seems to be noticing'", he said.
“I met a man called Santino Matwili. It was not until I went to shake his hand that I realised he was blind – due, he said, to extreme hunger. ’Food has run out,"‘he told me. ’You cannot let us die.’"
Fellow CAFOD aid workers have seen mothers picking leaves off trees to feed to their children to stave off hunger pangs, and as so often in humanitarian emergencies, it is the women, children and the elderly who are worst affected.
The spotlight was thrown on the growing crisis last month when the UN officially declared a state of famine in two areas of Unity State in South Sudan. But a much wider area is in acute danger, with the DEC having launched an appeal for four East African countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia where 16 million people face severe hunger.
Particularly vulnerable are nomadic and semi-nomadic communities who have never fully recovered from the drought of 2011-12, said CAFOD’s Catherine Ogolla, the charity’s country representative for Kenya and Uganda. Now their crops have failed, and their livestock are dying.
“It is now critical to reach vulnerable families who have lost everything and no longer have ways of coping,” Ogolla said. “Working with the Disasters Emergency Committee will help us scale up our response and reach more people in need.”
CAFOD, which has its head office in South London’s Elephant and Castle, has local partners already on the ground responding to those in need.
Londoners can donate to the DEC appeal for East Africa by visiting dec.org.uk.