Accra, Jan. 6, GNA - Millions of people are on the brink of starvation in the Horn of Africa due to recent severe droughts coupled with the effects of past and on-going conflicts, the UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) said in a special alert on Friday. In Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia more than 11 million people were estimated to be in need of assistance, it said in a statement released in Accra.
"Food shortages are particularly grave in Somalia where about two million people need humanitarian assistance. The food situation is also very serious in pastoral areas of northern and eastern Kenya, south-eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti."
It said in Somalia, most of the affected people were in the south where pastoral communities were facing acute food and livelihood crises due to severe drought.
"The secondary rainy season or Deyr (October to December) failed in most of the eight agricultural regions in the south resulting in widespread crop failure.
"It is estimated that the forthcoming Deyr crop, about to be harvested, could be the lowest in a decade."
The World Food Programme (WFP) said about 64,000 tonnes of food aid was needed until June 2006 to feed the drought-affected population, so far, only 16 700 tonnes are available.
"Immediate response to the WFP appeal is required to avert possible hunger-related deaths in southern Somalia," FAO said.
The statement said in Kenya, crop failure and depletion of livestock herds due to prolonged drought had led to famine conditions with some deaths reported in the arid areas.
The Kenya government has called for about $150 million to provide food for about 2.5 million people, almost 10 percent of the population, over the next six months.
"Additional assistance is also required for the provision of water for both people and animals, restocking of livestock and provision of seeds to farmers in preparation for the next crop season." The statement said in Djibouti, severe drought conditions had worsened the food security conditions of large numbers of pastoralists. Nearly 150,000 people, almost one-fifth of the population, are estimated to be facing food shortages.
It said in Ethiopia, despite favourable harvest prospects for the main season crop, currently being harvested, severe food shortages were being reported in the pastoral areas of eastern and southern Ethiopia. Initial estimates indicate more than one million people in Somali Region to be facing severe food shortages.
"Over $40 million are urgently required to stave off starvation. The onset of the dry season (January to March) is expected to worsen the situation. Overall, more than 8 million people in Ethiopia rely on food assistance in both relief and safety net programmes," FAO said.