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Eastern Africa on the verge of acute food crisis, UN warns

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2022-05-12 21:48
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Over 14 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are already on the verge of starvation, about half of them children. According to the United Nations, this number will rise to 20 million by mid-2022 if drought continues and prices continue to rise.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the UN warned communities in the Horn of Africa are experiencing one of the most severe droughts in memory. Even in the best-case scenario with above-average rains ending the dry spell, it would take months for people in the region to recover.

"Across the three countries, about 5.7 million children are acutely malnourished, while more than 3 million livestock which pastoralist families rely on for sustenance and livelihoods have died," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or OCHA said.

"The threat of large-scale loss of life in Africa's Horn is rising each day, and there is an urgent need to scale up the humanitarian response to save lives and livelihoods and avert the worst outcomes. More funding is required to enable humanitarian partners to respond to this severe climate-induced emergency."

In Somalia, the UN estimates 420,000 children are at risk of dropping out of school as livelihoods are completely wiped out and students are drawn into the daily struggle of getting sustenance. In addition, over 500,000 people have left their homes in search of food and water since the start of this year.

In Kenya, 3.5 million people are severely food insecure and acute malnutrition rates in some areas are more than double the emergency threshold. This is due to one of the most severe droughts in recent history. Refugees from neighboring countries are also among those facing extreme hunger.

The situation in the Horn of Africa is expected to be addressed by Martin Griffiths, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs at OCHA, who will be visiting Kenya on Thursday and Friday.

During his visit to the region, Griffiths is expected to meet with representatives of the government, people on the front lines of the crisis, local authorities and national and international humanitarian partners.

The visit is aimed at drawing international attention to this severe climate-induced humanitarian emergency and the need to scale up a robust response to save lives and livelihoods before it is too late.

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