The Horn of Africa—which includes Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya—is facing a severe drought, the worst in four decades. Seasonal...
A dangerous combination of factors—conflicts and displacement, extreme weather, outbreaks of disease and economic uncertainty—has created a global hunger crisis, putting additional pressure on people who already have trouble putting food on the table. International Medical Corps is responding with emergency food assistance, essential medicines, medical care and screening services, and training.
The situation is particularly dire in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, where years of drought, conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic upheaval have recently been further compounded by the war in Ukraine and the disruptions in shipments of food and fertilizer to the region that it has caused. Millions are living on the brink of famine, not knowing where their—or their children’s—next meal will come from.
Millions of women and children are acutely malnourished, with an entire generation at risk of the long-term effects—including conditions called stunting and wasting, which pose a threat to a child’s physical and cognitive development. Access to health, nutrition and other critical services is limited, especially in the hard-to-reach and remote sites where internally displaced persons (IDPs) live. Many people have been driven to adopt various negative coping strategies—such as selling livestock, or engaging in gender-based violence and child marriage—that exacerbate their vulnerabilities even further.
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people in need of food assistance
children under 5 are suffering from wasting
people are in food crisis due to weather extremes
Shifts in weather patterns caused by climate change are leading to extended droughts and strong floods
Regional conflicts have displaced millions, while war in Ukraine has disrupted supplies of food
Loss of income and assets due to displacement, combined with inflation, have led to food insecurity
International Medical Corps is responding to the global hunger crisis by providing a wide range of services in the countries where we work, focusing especially on young children (6–59 months), pregnant and lactating women, and people who have been displaced by conflict. We are procuring nutrition commodities and medicines, providing emergency food assistance, and training nutrition health workers on community management of acute malnutrition and on malnutrition screening services, while also providing such screening services ourselves. And because we take a holistic approach to food insecurity, we provide water, sanitation and hygiene services, because clean water and proper hygiene are essential to good health, especially when populations have been weakened by malnourishment.
Keep reading to find out more about our efforts in specific countries to battle global hunger.
After decades of conflict and drought, Afghanistan has become one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. The vast majority of Afghans are living in extreme poverty, with a recent World Food Programme report indicating that 95% of Afghans face unprecedented levels of hunger and widespread food shortages, with no signs of improvement. The consequences of the Ukraine conflict threaten to deepen this crisis, with supply-chain disruptions and substantial price increases for basic items.
International Medical Corps has provided medical services and training in Afghanistan since its founding in 1984. We deliver services throughout the country that improve the health and livelihood of nearly 3.5 million people. Our mobile health and nutrition teams provide vital nutrition services in remote areas. Staff receive training on integrated management of acute malnutrition, which covers malnutrition and its causes, acute malnutrition assessment, and admission and discharge criteria for our outpatient program. The mobile nutrition teams also provide nutrition education, nutrition screening for children 6–59 months and admission of identified children in the outpatient department for additional treatment. In addition, they establish mother-to-mother support groups at the community level for the promotion of optimal maternal, infant and young-child feeding practices, empowerment, and water, sanitation and hygiene services.
International Medical Corps has worked in the DRC since 1999, providing primary and secondary healthcare, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and treatment, nutrition support, food security programs, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, and WASH services. OCHA describes the DRC as experiencing “one of the most complex and protracted humanitarian crises in the world,” with pervasive violence, GBV, recurrent disease outbreaks and limited healthcare access across populations.
Today in the DRC, nearly 26 million people, half of whom are children, are highly food insecure. In 2021, the DRC received a combined 80% of its grain from Russia and Ukraine. The concern now is that inflation and reduced production will restrict DRC’s access to international goods, increasing malnutrition and mortality rates among the nation’s most vulnerable groups. Armed attacks and clashes are exacerbating this food crisis, increasing the number of people in the DRC who need immediate assistance, but who are unable to be reached by limited numbers of humanitarian workers. In response, we are working to treat severely and moderately malnourished children and adults, particularly pregnant and lactating women. We also provide nutritional education, seeds, tools and training to cultivate staple crops.
International Medical Corps has worked in Ethiopia since 2003 providing vital services, including healthcare, mental health care, nutrition, safe drinking water and hygiene assistance. The country is plagued by conflict and drought, leaving nearly 8 million people in need of food assistance for survival. Drought conditions have limited access to water, forcing people to travel long distances for it and often forcing them to collect it from contaminated sources, including rivers, ponds and springs. In addition, the refugee population that has fled armed conflict in neighboring countries, including Somalia and South Sudan, continues to grow, further straining the country’s resources.
The Ukraine conflict has exacerbated this dire situation. Ukraine is the country’s most significant grain and fertilizer supplier, and the war has disrupted the supply chain. We are fighting hunger in Ethiopia in a variety of ways, including through a program to improve the quality and diversity of household diets by supporting livestock ownership and teaching backyard gardening. International Medical Corps also trains mother care groups by visiting households to promote nutrition and healthy behavior, and by conducting education sessions about how to spot and treat malnutrition.
International Medical Corps has worked in Mali since 2013, following political instability and a coup d’état that caused mass displacement and the disruption of many public systems, including healthcare. Communities face socioeconomic insecurity, as livestock and crops no longer provide reliable work. Today nearly 2 million Malians face food insecurity, with many migrating throughout the year to pursue food. Inadequate healthcare, crisis-level internal displacement and similar emergencies in surrounding countries have intensified countrywide food insecurity.
Experts predict that, as the situation in Mali deteriorates and conflict in Ukraine disrupts agricultural production, food prices will continue to soar and vulnerable communities will face severe humanitarian difficulties. To support those affected by the conflict, International Medical Corps provides lifesaving assistance, focusing on nutrition; maternal, newborn and child health; and family planning and reproductive health. We also train healthcare providers to treat malnutrition and strengthen the referral systems between community health centers and regional health facilities and hospitals.
The ongoing conflict in northeast Nigeria continues to fuel one of Africa’s largest humanitarian crises. Amid the fighting, more than 8.4 million people need lifesaving assistance and more than 3 million are internally displaced. Agriculture is the primary means of livelihood for displaced people, and violent conflict makes agricultural work unstable if not impossible. Food insecurity is widespread, with almost 20 million people unsure where their next meal will come from, and tens of thousands on the verge of famine-like conditions.
Amid this dire food insecurity, the war in Ukraine has increased fertilizer costs by 150%, further complicating Nigerian food production, already hampered by violent internal conflicts. As a response to this crisis, International Medical Corps teams in Nigeria provide lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition for children under 5, conduct house-to-house malnutrition screenings, run a stabilization center, and deliver programs in health, nutrition, food security, livelihoods training and WASH services.
For more than 30 years, International Medical Corps has brought relief to highly vulnerable populations across Somalia, where food security is a primary concern, especially in northern and central regions where prolonged drought has depleted pastoral community livestock. Residents have little livestock left to sell for food, and rebuilding herds to pre-drought levels could take years. The effects of drought, flooding and displacement, in addition to ongoing fighting between government security forces and insurgents, have left more than one-third of Somalia’s 14 million people dependent on outside support for their survival. In addition, almost 3 million people have been displaced due to conflict and climate-related conditions. These vulnerable communities are predisposed to food crises and disease outbreaks, such as acute watery diarrhea, cholera and acute malnutrition. Of the 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 5.5 million require lifesaving healthcare and nutrition services.
Ukraine is the country’s largest grain and fertilizer supplier and the war has devastated the supply chain. Our teams are implementing nutrition programs in four underserved regions to help reduce malnutrition in children under 5, as well as among pregnant women and nursing mothers. We provide direct nutrition services while strengthening local capacity to build nutrition levels, change social behavior and advocate for their needs.
Approximately 7.7 million people in South Sudan—more than 60% of the population—face severe food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme, with high prices for food staples, disruptions in livestock and crop production, currency devaluation, limited humanitarian access and conflict-related displacement all contributing to the situation. The Ukraine conflict has exacerbated it further, disrupting supply chains and preventing critical resources from reaching the country.
International Medical Corps has been working in South Sudan since the mid-1990s, nearly 20 years before a national referendum in 2011 led the southernmost states of Sudan to become an independent country. In some of the areas where we work, more than one-third of children under 5 are affected by chronic or acute malnutrition, which can cause moderate or severe stunting. Through 13 program sites, we implement successful nutrition programs using the community-based management of acute malnutrition model and a maternal, infant and young-child feeding approach.
With an estimated 10.9 million people facing high levels of food insecurity, and 10.4 million people needing health assistance because they do not have access to a functional health center within two hours of their location, Sudan requires significant support. Tribal conflict and intercommunal violence in the Darfur region continues to affect civilians, especially women and children. Millions remain in displacement camps, relying almost entirely on humanitarian support for basic services. And the Ukraine conflict has exacerbated this dire situation, disrupting supply chains and increasing costs.
International Medical Corps has worked throughout Darfur since 2004, providing health, nutrition and WASH programs. In many of the sites where we operate, we are the only primary healthcare and nutrition services provider. We provide nutrition services to those most vulnerable to hunger, including children under 5, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Of the 88 health facilities we operate, 73 have integrated nutrition activities, including infant and young-child feeding practices. In addition, our mother support groups help prevent malnutrition by promoting proper infant-feeding practices at health facilities and within communities.
International Medical Corps has been continuously active in Ukraine since 2014, following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the collapse of eastern Ukraine’s health system. Between 2014 and 2022, we provided outpatient primary healthcare and mental health, protection and COVID-related services in areas affected by conflict in the southeast, and since the Russian invasion of February 2022, we expanded our efforts to provide an even wider range of healthcare services and training throughout the country, implementing programs not only in the health sector but also in nutrition and food security and livelihoods.
Ukraine is Europe’s largest grain exporter—and Russia’s war has disrupted the export of food grains, oils and fertilizer, most notably to the countries in the Horn of Africa and Middle East regions. This, in turn, has caused food prices to skyrocket globally. More than 161 million people in 42 countries are suffering from acute hunger.
As we work to meet the food challenges in other countries caused by the war in Ukraine, International Medical Corps has continued to provide nutrition services in the country. We have established mother-baby spaces in centers housing IDPs, and provide complimentary food and hygiene kits for children 6–23 months, focus extensively on infant and young-child feeding (IYCF), and work closely with the national Ministry of Health to train health workers on nutrition issues.
International Medical Corps has operated in Yemen since 2012, supporting primary and secondary health facilities and implementing nutrition, protection and WASH programs in seven of the country’s 23 governorates. Yemen today ranks among the world’s worst humanitarian disasters—24 million of its population of 29 million need some emergency assistance. The country suffers from outbreaks of disease, economic crises, fuel shortages, rising inflation, poverty and malnutrition. More than 80% of Yemenis live below the poverty line, and with the Ukraine war disrupting the global food-supply chain, Yemeni households face an even greater risk of food insecurity. More than 2 million children under 5 and 1.3 million pregnant and lactating women in Yemen are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022.
International Medical Corps is helping by supporting community-level healthcare centers in four governorates, and by providing training, essential drugs and nutritional supplies. We also run community management of acute malnutrition programs and equip health facilities to provide nutritional support to pregnant and lactating women and children under 5, and deliver lifesaving care for severely malnourished children with complications. Our health teams ensure early detection and referral of acutely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women for specialized care. On average, International Medical Corps educates more than 6,500 people monthly on health and nutrition.
More than four years of failed rainy seasons, sometimes punctuated by calamitous flooding, have caused ruined crops and widespread food shortages across the Horn of Africa and portions of the Middle East. Droughts have also reduced access to clean, affordable water, raising the risk of disease and the threat of gender-based violence, since women and girls—who typically are tasked with gathering water—have to travel longer distances to remote areas to access it. Prices for food and water have skyrocketed as supplies have plummeted, leaving millions of people—including millions of children—facing the threat of famine and disease.
Climate change is creating extremes in weather that have dramatically reduced crop yields. Population growth and overgrazing have made the land less resilient, leading pastoralists and other communities to expand their search for arable land and clean water—which sometimes causes conflicts that create further displacements. The war in Ukraine, which is a major supplier of grains, food oils and fertilizers to the region, has only made things worse, as has the COVID-19 pandemic.
As usual in such situations, vulnerable populations suffer the most, with an entire generation of young children at risk of the long-term effects of malnutrition—including physical and cognitive defects, disease and death—and of a lack of education. Women and girls also face an increased risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse during times of severe food insecurity, with child marriage a particular concern, as poverty-stricken parents unable to feed their children look for alternatives. The elderly and disabled also suffer disproportionately under such conditions, as do displaced populations, which do not have the same access to resources as host communities that are themselves under pressure.
We have worked throughout the Horn of Africa and the Middle East for decades, providing a wide range of medical services and focusing on both preventing and treating malnutrition among vulnerable populations—especially adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, and children under 5. We provide food aid and cash assistance when needed, and livelihoods training to help people earn income, grow crops and raise livestock. Find out more in the Nutrition & Food Security section of our website.
Donate now to protect women, children and displaced people from the threat of famine. Your support matters.