20 million people at risk of starvation as Horn of Africa drought worsens: UN

Experts say extreme weather events are occurring with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change

Experts say extreme weather events are occurring with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change

Twenty million people are at risk of starvation this year as late rains worsen an already brutal drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the UN warned on Tuesday.

A months-long drought has left the Horn of Africa on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, destroying crops and livestock and forcing large numbers of people from their homes in search of food and water.

With long-awaited rains failing to materialize nearly a month into the current rainy season, “the number of people suffering from drought-induced hunger could rise from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million. until 2022,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said. .

Six million Somalis, or 40% of the population, faced extreme levels of food insecurity and there was “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions prevailed, the WFP said.

In Kenya, half a million people were on the brink of a hunger crisis, with communities in the north of the country particularly at risk due to their reliance on livestock.

The number of Kenyans in need of assistance has more than quadrupled in less than two years, the agency said.

Malnutrition rates in Ethiopia’s drought-stricken south and southeast have risen above emergency thresholds, while the north of the country is embroiled in a 17-month war between government forces and rebels Tigrayans.

Parts of the drought-stricken Horn of Africa region are already reeling from the effects of ongoing conflict, poverty and an invasion of locusts, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“We must act now…if we are to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” FAO Representative to the African Union Chimimba David Phiri told a UN briefing in Geneva.

The dire conditions have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has contributed to soaring food and fuel prices and disrupted global supply chains, the WFP said.

The agency has warned that a lack of funding could be catastrophic, claiming $473 million (438 million euros) over the next six months.

A previous appeal in February raised less than 4% of the funds needed, he said.

Meanwhile, FAO lacked more than 60% of the funds it needed to meet the needs of 1.5 million people in the three countries.

“We know from experience that it is vital to act early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” said Michael Dunford, Regional Director WFP for East Africa.

East Africa suffered an excruciating drought in 2017, but early humanitarian action averted a famine in Somalia.

By contrast, 2,60,000 people, half of whom were children under the age of six, died of starvation or hunger-related disorders when a famine hit the country in 2011.

Experts say extreme weather events are occurring with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.

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