Horn of Africa Drought Crisis Overwhelms Aid Agencies

Posted July 8th, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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United Nations and international relief agencies are appealing to the international community to help millions of people in the Horn of Africa who are suffering from the region's worst drought in 60 years.

The agencies say they are overstretched and underfunded in dealing with the drought crisis that is affecting Ethiopia, Kenya, central and southern Somalia and Djibouti. Aid agencies say the impact is greatest in Somalia, where the decline in crop production is causing food prices to rise.

The United Nations reports more than one-third of Somalia's 7.5 million inhabitants needs humanitarian assistance.

Most aid agencies have left the country due to ongoing fighting between government and al-Shabab insurgents.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group recently invited international agencies to return to Somalia. But the chief spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency, Melissa Fleming, told VOA that guarantees of safety are needed before staff can return.

The World Food Program is currently feeding six million drought victims throughout the Horn of Africa. But agency officials say this number is expected to rise to 10 million.

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While hundreds of thousands of victims of drought and conflict remain stuck inside Somalia, thousands more are fleeing to neighboring countries. The United Nations estimates 54,000 Somalis have crossed into Ethiopia since the beginning of the year. And, it notes some 14-hundred Somalia refugees are crossing into Kenya every day.