From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Sep 29 2009 - 16:16:24 EDT
East Africa hit by hunger crisis
By Barney Jopson in Nairobi and Javier Blas in London
Published: September 29 2009 02:07 |
More than 23m people across east Africa are facing severe hunger amid the worst humanitarian crisis in the region for 10 years, Oxfam said on Monday, as aid agencies struggle to raise the funds to feed them.
A prolonged drought has caused widespread crop failures, killed thousands of cattle and kept food prices high, leaving much of the population struggling to survive in the driest regions of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
But as needs rise, the ability of aid agencies to respond is being limited by the global economic downturn, which has led some donor governments to scale back aid, and by the higher priority other donors attach to the crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ahead of December’s Copenhagen climate conference, Oxfam said the east African crisis was directly linked to climate change, which has increased the frequency of droughts in the region from once a decade to every two or three years.
The aid agency launched a £9.5m ($15m, €10.3m) appeal on Monday to fund food delivery to 750,000 people, but its call is dwarfed by the United Nations World Food Programme, which has a funding shortfall of $977m in the region for the next six months.
“The scale of funding available is not going to meet everyone’s needs, but we don’t want to be donor-bashing because we understand the constraints they’re under,” said one aid official.
The WFP, which obtains funds from western donors such as the US, the European Union, Japan and Canada, says only 10 per cent of its needs in the region are funded.
“There is anecdotal evidence of some donors having cut their aid budgets,” said Ben Heaven Taylor, an Oxfam funding manager. “But what tends to happen is there’s a lag of couple of years until you see the impact of a recession on aid.”
The drought has had a disproportionate impact on the pastoralist communities who live in the most arid parts of east Africa because water shortages are killing off the cattle that are their main – and sometimes only – source of income.
The crisis is most severe in Ethiopia, where nearly 14m people are in urgent need of food aid, but the WFP has already cut the size of its rations there as it runs short of funds. From next month it will also begin to cut rations in Kenya, where nearly 5m people are at risk.
No figures are available on deaths attributable to hunger, but aid workers say some are inevitable, particularly among the elderly and infants, even if rains forecast for October arrive.
The worst previous drought was in 2000 but the failure of the rains this year has been exacerbated by man-made factors.
Critics have attacked Kenya’s dysfunctional coalition government for failing to take preventive measures, even though it had been clear for months that a food crisis was looming.
In Somalia, the only country where many of the hungry are in the capital city, the availability of food and cash to buy it have been hit by fighting between the fragile interim government and Islamist insurgents.
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