Federal boost to charitable famine response

Canadian Foodgrains Bank receives $14 million to provide relief in the Horn of Africa.

The government of Canada has provided $14 million to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank as a response to the global hunger crisis. These funds are going to be used to help respond to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa – specifically in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia.

“We are likely weeks* away from an official famine being declared in Somalia, so this additional support comes at a crucial time,” said Foodgrains Bank’s executive director Andy Harrington in a recent press release.

Stefan Epp-Koop, Humanitarian and Nexus Program Manager at Foodgrains Bank Canada, defined a famine as when “20 percent of households face an extreme lack of food; two deaths per 10,000 people per day due to malnutrition or starvation; and 30 percent of children suffering from acute malnutrition.” None of the countries are officially in famine*, but there is still an incredible need for support.

Epp-Koop said that half the deaths happened before famine was declared last time. 

“What we’re seeing,” he said, “is already complete devastation of livelihoods – loss of life and incredibly high rates of malnutrition.”

 Nimco Mohamed with her son Abdirashid in Somalia. Photo credit: Trócaire.

What will Canadian Foodgrains Bank do next?

“People need to survive this crisis . . . The $14 million is helpful because it helps us extend our reach and help people cope with this difficult time,” said Epp-Koop.

The funding is being used to provide “critical and life-saving assistance to help people through this life-changing time.” As a result, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank will support nearly 120,000 people over the coming months in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia. They also have other programs developing longer-term solutions to assist people who are experiencing crisis. 

“The $14 million grant will be used to implement projects through 11 organizations based in the four named countries who are partnered with five of Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s members.”

The funding is being used in a variety of ways depending on the context. Some people will be provided with food, and other people will be provided with cash to buy food from a local market – the resources are dependent on what is best for the situation. 

Why are these countries at risk of famine? 

Epp-Koop said that there are three main factors contributing to the current hunger crisis.

The primary factor is that this area is entering into its fifth failed rainy season. In Somalia, Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya, the rains have failed since 2019. 

“The area that’s approaching famine is in Somalia,” Epp-Koop said, “but the other areas are still being impacted.” 

“There is a loss of human life, and households that used to have 100 cattle now have none because there’s no pastureland or water. Households that were self-sufficient have completely lost their livelihood.” 

Another contributing factor is that food prices are rapidly rising. Epp-Koop said, “We’ve seen that to some extent in Canada, but we are seeing that even more in the Horn of Africa.” This area used to receive imports from Ukraine and Russia, but due to conflict those resources have been cut off. The droughts are also impacting production, and this is causing food prices to rise as well. 

“Some basic foods have nearly doubled,” he said. “People have fewer and fewer recourses to purchase food.” 

The third main contributing factor that Epp-Koop mentioned is the insecurity in Somalia with Al-Shabab and localized conflict because there are fewer resources. With a limited number of resources, there is competition and conflict in accessing them.  

Photo credit: MCCC in South Sudan.

How can Canadians help? 

It can feel challenging to know how to provide support to people on the other side of the world, especially as many Canadians are experiencing challenging times themselves. Even so, Epp-Koop said that Canadians have been incredibly generous in supporting people who are in a time of need, and he encourages people to continue being generous.  

Another way to take action is to pray. 

“Pray for comfort, pray for rain,” Epp-Koop said, “pray for peace, pray for hope. Pray for those who are doing the work. It is a stressful and challenging and traumatic time for people, and that we keep them in our prayers as well.”

*At the time this article was written, none were officially in a state of famine. Somalia is likely to be in a famine in the near future.


  • Kristen Parker

    Kristen is a freelance writer for Christian Courier. She recently married her husband, Chris. She has a passion for words and house plants.

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