Hundreds of thousands face starvation and death in Africa in the growing crisis no one is talking about
During the drought that devastated the Horn of Africa in 2010 and 2011, women bound their waists with rope to deaden the pangs of hunger as they gave what little food they had to their children.
In stark contrast to such selfless acts, the international community stood back and watched until it was too late for the 260,000 people who starved to death.
Now aid workers are increasingly concerned that 2017 could see a tragedy on a similar scale with droughts – and floods – meaning some parts of southern and east Africa have not had a significant harvest for three years.
The Government is leading calls for the world to take effective action this time – just as right-wing politicians and newspapers call for David Cameron’s flagship pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid to be scrapped.
The Department for International Development (DfID) has already committed £362m in aid over this year and next, and is understood to be considering increasing its contribution further.
“As we enter 2017, over 37 million people across Africa are without food,” International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, said in a statement sent to the Independent. “Families face losing their homes and livelihoods as the effects of widespread drought worsen.
“That is why ‘Global Britain’ is leading the response to the escalating crisis by providing life-saving food, water and shelter.”
Warning the crisis could force many people in the region to become refugees, Ms Patel appealed to other countries to “step up to prevent people from going hungry”.
“Tackling the global challenges of our time such as drought and disease which fuel migration, insecurity and instability is the right thing to do and is firmly in Britain’s interest,” she said.
A source in the international aid community told The Independent that there was a danger of a repeat of “the desperate conditions and extreme hunger that killed hundreds of thousands in 2010”.
“Certain population groups are now in the third year of having very limited household input,” the source said.
“They will have already sold off household assets, livestock will have died or are likely to be unhealthy and not productive.