Twenty million people are at risk of starvation this year when delayed rains exacerbate an already brutal drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the UN warned on Tuesday.
A month-long drought has left the Horn of Africa on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying crops and livestock and forcing large numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water.
When the long-awaited rain falls almost a month into the current rainy season, “the number of hungry people due to drought could rise from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million by 2022,” said the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
Six million Somalis, or 40% of the population, were facing extreme levels of food insecurity and there was “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if the current situation prevails, WFP said.
In Kenya, half a million people were on the brink of a hunger crisis, with communities in the north particularly vulnerable due to their dependence on livestock.
The number of Kenyans in need of help has more than quadrupled in less than two years, the agency said.
Malnutrition rates in drought-stricken southern and southeastern Ethiopia have risen above emergency limits, while the northern part of the country has been gripped by a 17-month war between government forces and Tigrayan rebels.
Parts of the drought-stricken region of Africa are already suffering from the effects of ongoing conflict, poverty and a grasshopper invasion, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday.
“We must act now … if we want to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” said FAO Representative to the African Union, Chimimba David Phiri, at a UN briefing in Geneva.
Lack of funding
The difficult conditions have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has contributed to sky-high food and fuel costs and disrupted global supply chains, WFP said.
The agency warned that a lack of funding could lead to disaster and demanded $ 473 million (€ 438 million) over the next six months.
An earlier appeal in February collected less than 4% of the cash needed, it said.
At the same time, the FAO lacked more than 60% of the resources needed to meet the needs of 1.5 million people in the three countries.
“We know from past experience that it is important to act early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, yet our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding so far,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for East Africa. .
East Africa suffered an outrageous drought in 2017, but early humanitarian measures averted a famine in Somalia.
However, 260,000 people – half of them children under the age of 6 – died of hunger or hunger-related disorders when a famine hit the country in 2011.
Experts say that extreme weather events occur with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.
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