More than 8 million East Africans in need of food aid due to drought, UN reports

30 March 2011
Thousands of people have been displaced due to drought in Somalia

The number of people in need of emergency food aid in East Africa has increased by 2 million to nearly 8.4 million as drought continues to ravage the region, the United Nations humanitarian arm reported today.

Extremely poor rains from October to December have led to substantial harvest failure, a decrease in water availability, deteriorating pasture conditions and livestock losses in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, a situation exacerbated by conflict, lack of access, high food prices and human and livestock diseases, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

The overwhelming majority of newly affected people, 1.2 million people, are Kenyan, according to the new multi-agency assessments.

Outbreaks of drought-related animal diseases have been recorded, with more than 5,000 livestock dying in Marsabit, Kenya, in January, a number that is still increasing. More than 10,000 Somali pastoralists have crossed the border into Kenya, while some 30,000 livestock and 10,000 pastoralists from Kenya have migrated to Uganda, OCHA said.

Cross-border migrations have also been reported from Kenya and Somalia into Ethiopia, leading to increased competition for scarce resources and creating the potential for resource-based conflicts with local host communities.

Acute malnutrition levels are increasing, with a recent survey in the Juba area of South Somalia recording 30 per cent acute malnutrition rates, double the emergency threshold, while rates of more than 25 per cent have been recorded in north-eastern Kenya and those in Djibouti are reaching 20 per cent in the worst affected areas.

“Of utmost concern are acute water shortages,” OCHA said, noting that Somalia is experiencing a severe water crisis throughout most of the country, while serious shortages in Ethiopia have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions in the Somali and Oromia regions.

The education sector has also been severely affected, as an increased number of school children and teachers have to migrate in search of pasture and water. In Somalia, more than 400 schools have closed due to the drought since December, affecting nearly 55,000 students. In Ethiopia, some 58,000 school drop-outs have been reported, primarily in the Somali and Oromia regions.

On a visit to Somalia and Kenya last month, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos warned that the world must continue to pay attention to what is happening in East Africa.

“We must always make sure that people understand the human impact of these crises. Behind every statistic, there is a human face,” she said in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.


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