Twenty million people are at risk of starvation this year as delayed rains worsen an already brutal drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the UN warned on April 19.
A months-long drought has left the Horn of Africa on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying crops and livestock and forcing huge numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water.
As rains fail to materialise nearly a month into the current rainy season, “the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022”, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said.
Six million Somalis or 40 per cent of the population were facing extreme levels of food insecurity and there was “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions prevailed, WFP said.
In Kenya, half a million people were on the brink of a hunger crisis. The number of Kenyans in need of assistance has risen more than fourfold in less than two years, the agency said.
Malnutrition rates in drought-hit southern and southeastern Ethiopia have surged above emergency thresholds, while the north of the country has been in the grip of a 17-month war between government forces and Tigrayan rebels.
Parts of the drought-hit Horn of Africa region are already reeling from the effects of ongoing conflict, poverty and a locust invasion, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on April 19.