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Millions facing critical food shortages

[Somalia] Adey Mohamed Nur, who abandoned her village with her two children, as a result of drought in Bakool region. [Date picture taken: 01/28/2006] Derk Segaar/IRIN
The drought in Somalia has spread to areas previously not drought-prone, displacing thousands of families (file photo)
An estimated 11 million people in East Africa and the Horn of Africa continue to face critical food shortages brought on by drought and non-natural factors, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has said. "African agriculture appears to be in crisis, and the compounding effect of years of wars, uprising or coups, and civil strife are responsible for causing more hunger than the range of natural problems alone," the agency's latest bulletin said on Friday. "A continent that was more than self-sufficient in food at independence 50 years ago is now a massive food importer," it added. The Federation cited drought, conflict, land shortages, high food prices and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in some countries in the region as some of the underlying reasons for widespread hunger. Drought and insecurity in Somalia had left some 1.7 million in need of food aid. "Reports indicate that half of all herds have died," it said. "Livestock accounts for 65 percent of export earnings." In Kenya, where 3.5 million people are estimated to need food and the government has declared a national disaster, Oxfam International has warned that the escalating food crisis could plunge affected populations in the northern region into a level of conflict the country has not seen in close to a decade. "The food crisis is exacerbating tensions in an area where a lack of long-term development aid has already led to tensions between communities over scarce resources," Oxfam said in a press release on Monday. "The drought and food crisis in Kenya is so severe that it is leading to nomadic cattle herders fighting over resources," the agency added. "The number of weapons in the area is making such encounters increasingly lethal as nomadic communities now have to travel hundreds of kilometres in search of pasture, often taking them into areas controlled by other communities." The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has launched an appeal for Ethiopia to fill a funding gap of US $7.94 million for "critical non-food interventions". It said more than 56,000 children under age five were facing malnutrition in the Somali and Oromiya regions of southern Ethiopia. Their numbers are expected to rise sharply over the next three months, during the traditionally dry season in the region. "Drought need not be a death sentence for children living in affected communities," said Dan Toole, director of UNICEF's World Wide Office of Emergency Programmes. "We can save thousands of lives if we can get the emergency health, nutrition, water and sanitation interventions to them before it is too late." Toole said the herds of animals upon which Ethiopia's largely pastoral communities depended had not recovered from the impact of successive droughts. Measles - which preys on the weakened immune systems of malnourished children - is also on the rise. UNICEF said it had begun immunising 314,000 children under the age of five against the disease and planned to reach up to 750,000 within three months. "The time to act is now," Toole added.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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