Kenya + 3 more

Millions in Horn of Africa face food disaster

NAIROBI, KENYA Jul 22 2008 16:33

  • Nearly 15-million people in the Horn of Africa region are facing a humanitarian disaster unless donors urgently release funds to deliver supplies, aid agencies warned on Tuesday.

In a region beset by conflict and piracy, prolonged drought and rising inflation have exacerbated human suffering, especially among the rural and urban poor, they said.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said it urgently needs $403-million to feed the hungry people in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda until year-end.

"If we do not get this assistance urgently, there will be disaster in this region," WFP spokesperson Peter Smerdon said.

Smerdon said a million Somali might be without cereal in August unless countries offer naval ships to escort relief supplies to Somalia, which has been wracked by lawlessness for 17 years. Many WFP-contracted ships have refused to deliver aid to Somalia because of pirate attacks.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said the humanitarian situation has reached "emergency levels" in Somalia and Ethiopia, while a shortfall of rain might worsen the situation in the other countries.

"If the rains fail and we don't have enough funding from donors, we are staring at a crisis in the coming months," said OCHA regional chief Besida Tonwe.

About 4,6-million Ethiopians need emergency food support, an increase from 2,2-million in the period from January to March 2008, while an additional 5,7-million drought-affected others require extended support -- food or cash.

Kenya, recovering from months of post-election violence, is experiencing widespread food insecurity with 1,2-million people in need of urgent supplies.