By March 2017, East Africa was facing one of the biggest humanitarian crises in its history, driven by successive droughts and failed harvests, conflict and insecurity. Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya were experiencing the worst drought in a generation; the Somali and Kenyan governments had both declared a national disaster and appealed to the international community for help. At the same time, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan had deteriorated dramatically, due to a combination of conflict and drought, and famine was declared at the end of February.

All 13 DEC member charities took part in the appeal, reaching almost 2.5 million people in the first six months of the response.