The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today the agency is facing a huge deficit in the funds required to continue to assist more than five million people in five countries in the Horn of Africa who are experiencing severe food shortages as a result of a prolonged drought.
“WFP so far has 44 per cent of the resources it needs to feed 5.22 million people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Karamoja region of eastern Uganda from April through September,” said Josette Sheeran, the WFP Executive Director.
“The shortfall will hamper our efforts to provide food where it is needed most,” said Ms. Sheeran, who is currently in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, on a fact-finding mission.
The number of hungry people in the Greater Horn of Africa has risen as drought, rising food and fuel prices and conflict take their toll.
The drought began with the failure of the October to December short rains last year in eastern parts of the Horn of Africa, pushing an additional 1.4 million people into hunger. More people may need food aid if the current long rains – from March to May – are not sufficient, Ms. Sheeran said.
“I am very pleased that in areas of abundance in the region farmers are selling their produce to WFP so that it can be used to help the poorest in drought-stricken areas,” she said, adding that WFP bought food worth $139 million from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia last year.
Food prices have started rising in areas that rely on the short rains for most food production, with maize now costing between 25 and 120 per cent more in some remote parts of the region. Cereal prices over the next six months are expected to increase by 40 to 50 per cent, she said.
Rising international food and fuel prices have compounded the pressure on the poorest, many of whom are yet to recover from the 2007-2009 drought in the region.