Older people in East Africa on brink of starvation

After four consecutive failed rainy seasons, older pastoralists in East Africa are on the brink of starvation and in fear that their entire way of living passed down through the generations, is at breaking point.
They have searched in vain for miles to find pasture and water for themselves and their animals. As a result, millions of cows, sheep and goats have been decimated, leaving their owners hungry and destitute.
Jatani Guyo Jawe from Borena in Ethiopia explains: “As a pastoralist, I was used to not having enough rain and it had a minimal impact on livestock in Borena. But I have never in my life experienced a drought like this one.”
Many older people who are too weak to travel with their animals are left behind to look after their grandchildren.
Bokayo Okutu, 75, from Marsabit in Kenya tells HelpAge: “My biggest worry now is that we don’t have food and my grandchildren, who fetch water and firewood for me, sometimes go on an empty stomach and that really disturbs me.”

HelpAge is providing emergency support

HelpAge has conducted a survey in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan to assess the scale of the crisis and to identify the best way to help the older people in crisis.

The survey shows that:

  • 73% of older people in the three countries reported they do not have access to enough food. In Ethiopia, it was 92%.

  • More than half (56%) are currently only eating one meal a day. But many older people told HelpAge they weren’t even getting that.

“In this village, someone starved to death,” says Bokaya Okutu. “We have had to go without food for days and nights.”
HelpAge is now supporting thousands of older people affected by providing cash, food supplies, clean water, crop seeds and goats. We are also drilling and rehabilitating wells, but more support is urgently needed in the face of a serious funding shortfall across the humanitarian sector.

Download the survey here.