United Nations requests US$700 million in aid for East Africa to avoid famine

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The United Nations has called for wealthy donor nations to donate US$700 million (£382 million or 484 million) in emergency aid for Eastern Africa to prevent widespread famine. Since the start of 2008 the number of people living in hunger in the region has almost doubled to seventeen million, according to the UN.

UN emergency relief co-ordinator John Holmes states that food levels are dangerously low in much of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Northern Kenya and Uganda. The area, known as the 'Horn of Africa', has seen drought, war and high food prices all worsen the situation. Holmes has warned that the levels of those in need could rise still further.

A total of $1.4 billion is to be raised for the period from now to the year's end, but at least $716 million of that remains to be found. "We may need significant funds after that period - this is not the end of the story," warned Holmes.

"We can avoid the situations of the 1980s and the 1990s which were genuine famines at different times. But we do need extra resources, very quickly indeed if we are going to avoid going back to famine situations," he said. He says Ethiopia and Somalia are in the worst states, with six million Ethiopians requiring emergency support and 43% of Somalia's population in a similar predicament.

He described locals saying that the situation has never been as bad since 1928, when vast amounts of livestock died. They say rain is needed within the next few months if there is to be any grazing and cereal crops are impossible in the near future, it being well into 2009 before anything may be ready to harvest.

The number of hungry people in the world rose by 75 million last year to 925 million. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says high food prices are to blame for the crisis.