Monday, September 28, 2009

Hunger Crisis Worsens in East Africa as Boreholes, Funds Dry Up

By Jason Gale
Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Eastern Africa is threatened with famine after drought parched crops and the financial crisis sapped funds for food relief, aid groups said.
About 20 million people in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda will need life-saving assistance until at least December, Save the Children said in a statement yesterday. The Westport, Connecticut-based organization said millions of children face malnutrition, disease and death.
“We’ve not seen a food crisis of this magnitude and severity in many years, and it is children who will suffer the most if the world fails to respond quickly,” Ned Olney, Save the Children’s vice president for global humanitarian response, said in the statement.
The World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, said last week it needs $3 billion to plug a budget shortfall. Without extra funding, the Rome-based United Nations agency said it will have to halve the number of people it’s supporting in Kenya and halve rations in Somalia.
“There are more hungry people in the world and less food aid than ever before,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a Sept. 16 statement. “The double whammy of the financial crisis and the still record high food prices around the world is delivering a devastating blow. Throw in a storm, a drought and a conflict and you have a recipe for disaster.”
This year, the number of chronically hungry people worldwide is predicted to reach a record high of 1.02 billion, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Somalia is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years, with about half the population, or 3.6 million people, in need of emergency assistance, the FAO said in a Sept. 21 statement.
Conflict, Displacement
In sub-Saharan Africa 80 percent to 90 percent of all cereal prices monitored by the FAO in 27 countries are more than 25 percent higher than before food prices began soaring two years ago, according to the Rome-based FAO. Below-average rainfall, combined with conflict and displacement are aggravating serious food shortages in the region, it said.
In parts of central Kenya, 50 percent of shallow wells, boreholes and other water sources have dried up. People walk as many as 30 kilometers (19 miles) in search of water in the country where 3.8 million are suffering the impact of drought, the WFP said in Sept. 16 report.
The El Nino weather pattern, which usually brings heavy rains toward the end of the year, may exacerbate the problem by causing floods and mudslides, destroying crops both in the field and in stores, increasing livestock losses and damaging infrastructure and housing, the FAO said this week.
Health officials are battling an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea in Ethiopia, where 1,354 new cases and three deaths were reported in one week this month, Save the Children said. The government estimates that 6.2 million people, half of them children, will need emergency food aid in the next few months.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Gale in Singapore at

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