Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drought in Horn of Africa one step away from becoming famine

The United Nations says that the drought in the Horn of Africa has now reached an emergency stage. 10 million people are suffering through the drought which is very close to becoming classified as a famine. The UN is asking for emergency donations of money from their donor nations to bring food and aid into the region.

Reuters writer Astrid Zweynert gives us the latest details on the Eastern African drought.

Aid agency CARE on Monday launched an appeal for $25 million to scale up its response to the growing crisis. The agency said it is already giving emergency assistance to nearly one million people in the region.

"The current crisis builds upon years of consecutive droughts and deteriorating conditions," Barbara Jackson, CARE International’s humanitarian director, said in a statement.

"As livestock have died en masse, pastoralists are losing their main assets and means to survive," Jackson said. "They have nothing left to feed their families."


Donor countries have started mobilising assistance for the drought survivors, with Britain pledging 38 million pounds ($61 million dollars) in food aid to Ethiopia.

Swedish International Development Corporation Minister Gunilla Carlsson announced a 30 million Swedish krona ($4.7 million) contribution to the U.N. Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) work in the region, while Denmark said it will contribute 64 million Danish krone ($12 million) in humanitarian aid to Somalia to help ease the impact of the drought.

The United States, meantime, has deployed a disaster assistance response team, based in Kenya and Ethiopia, to help the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid agencies there coordinate emergency aid operations.

U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres spent Sunday visiting the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where an estimated 1,300 people arrive every day, many of them Somalis, in the already overcrowed camp, thought to be the biggest in the world with a population of some 380,000.

Somali refugees seeking shelter in Kenya from extreme drought and hunger are the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable in the world, Guterres said.

Increasing numbers of malnourished young children are dying after trekking for weeks to receive emergency aid in Kenya in what has become the "worst humanitarian disaster in the world", the U.N. refugee chief said.

"We're in a crisis right now," Allison Oman, UNHCR's senior regional nutrition and food security officer told reporters at the camp. "We need extraordinary measures to help."

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