Thursday 23 November 2017

Agencies beg for help as drought grips East Africa

Joe Sinclair in London

Millions of people in East Africa are facing the worst drought in the region in decades, aid agencies warned as they launched emergency appeals.

In Ireland, agencies like Concern, Trocaire and GOAL have all appealed for help, and in the UK Oxfam has launched a £50m (€55.7m) appeal -- its largest ever in Africa -- in response to the food crisis, which is affecting more than 12 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

Save the Children launched a £40m (€44.5m) appeal to help children in Somalia and Kenya who are at risk of starvation, and the British Red Cross was also calling for funds.

The UN has described the situation as East Africa's worst drought in 60 years.

Jane Cocking, Oxfam's humanitarian director, said: "This is the worst food crisis of the 21st century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost.

"Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival.

"People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months -- we need funds to help us reach people with life-saving food and water.

"This is a preventable disaster and solutions are possible. It's no coincidence that the worst-affected areas are the poorest and least developed in the region. More needs to be done to make sure communities are more resilient to increasingly frequent crises in the future."

Oxfam is aiming to reach three million people in dire need of clean water, food and basic sanitation.

In the worst-hit areas 60pc of livestock has already died while the remainder are either sick or dangerously underweight.

Matt Croucher, Save the Children's regional emergency manager for East Africa, said: "Thousands of children could starve if we don't get life-saving help to them fast.

"Parents no longer have any way to feed their children; they've lost their animals, their wells have dried up and food is too expensive to afford.


"We can stop this tragedy unfolding, but we only have half the money we need. We urgently need to raise the rest so we can save more children's lives."

The charity said that £5 (€5.57) pays for enough water purification tablets to provide clean, safe water to a family of six for a month, while £15 pays for mosquito nets to keep 10 malnourished children safe from disease, and £80 will feed a family of six for a month.

The British Red Cross said the number of refugees leaving Somalia for Kenya and Ethiopia had grown from 5,000 a month to more than 30,000 in the second week in June.

Mary Atkinson, British Red Cross food security adviser, added: "When people are leaving their homes due to lack of food, we're in a very serious situation."

Irish Independent

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