The following statement was issued today by the Office of the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
The Secretary-General has appointed Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), as his Special Envoy on the Drought in the Horn of Africa.
According to estimates of the WFP, more than 15 million people in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania are facing a humanitarian crisis of serious proportions. Persistent drought and poor rainfall, coupled with the effects of conflict and insecurity, have eroded food stocks in the region, which also plays host to several thousand refugees and internally displaced persons. The most seriously affected populations are agropastoralists in southern and eastern Ethiopia, Somalia and northern Kenya.
The magnitude of the problem may well increase; prospects for the rains expected in May and June are uncertain. Without increased donor support for immediate food relief assistance, the international community may be confronted with the sort of food crisis the region tragically had to deal with 15 years ago. It is urgent that pre-emptive measures are taken now to avert such a catastrophe.
Ms. Bertini will be travelling to the Horn of Africa on 11 April, following her meetings next week with the Secretary-General in Rome. During her visit to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Kenya, she will raise public awareness of the deteriorating situation and the growing threat of famine. She will also seek commitments from governments and other parties to conflict to provide secure access for humanitarian agencies, examine the country-specific and regional dimensions of the crisis, and address logistical concerns. Ms. Bertini will also look into the manner in which the immediate response may lay the groundwork for longer-term food security in the region.