Over 19 million people in Horn of Africa need humanitarian aid, say UN officials


Senior United Nations officials are highlighting the need for significant resources to help over 19 million people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia who require humanitarian aid due the effects of conflict and drought.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told a news conference in Geneva that the situation in Ethiopia, which has faced several years of drought and more recently high food prices, could deteriorate over the next few months.

There were concerns that less than expected rainfall could lead to poor harvests and there would be an increased need for food aid and for pockets of therapeutic feeding where malnutrition was present, the UN News Service added.  

Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that there was no consolidated appeal for Ethiopia but there was a joint humanitarian response plan agreed with the Government, which would expire in June of this year and would need to be renewed.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) needed an additional $236 million to cover its operations in the country for the rest of the year.

In neighbouring Somalia, drought and a major conflict had led to a situation in which some 50% of Somalia`s population was being provided with food rations, Mark Bowden, Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, told reporters.

He said the current drought was one of the worst in the last decade, and the prognosis for the rains this year was worsening. Around 24% of children in some parts of the country had global acute malnutrition, and it was necessary now to start general supplementary feeding for children.

With fighting erupting again in the capital, Mogadishu, there are renewed fears about displacement, he added. There are currently some 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more people had left the city over the weekend.

Bowden noted that the response to the $900 million appeal for Somalia had been “disappointing,” with only 35% of it being met so far.

Aeneas Chuma, Resident Humanitarian Coordinator at the UN Office in Nairobi, said Kenya too was facing a complex humanitarian situation owing to drought and high food prices. An estimated 10 million people were currently affected by the food insecurity.

In addition, the country had also been affected by the global economic downturn as major sources of revenue such as tourism had declined by about 30%, while remittances from families abroad had also declined by 40%.