Worst drought in 40 years threatens millions in Horn of Africa

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A fourth failed rain in the Horn of Africa could further exacerbate hunger that’s threatening the lives of 13 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, the UN’s World Food Program has warned.

The drought has been particularly devastating for the pastoral communities who depend on animals for their livelihoods, according to Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for Eastern Africa. An estimated three million livestock have already died due to a lack of food and water, he said.

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“In my most recent trips to drought-affected areas of Kenya and Ethiopia earlier this year, dead livestock littered the roads and crops were completely destroyed,” Dunford said in an email response to questions. “Similar scenes can be found in Somalia.”

The March to May rains “have failed to materialize, and the drought has exhausted the coping mechanisms of people who now have to rely on humanitarian aid to survive. Families in this region are used to drought, but these are the driest conditions they’re facing in four decades,” Dunford said.

The reliance on imports from the Black Sea countries such as Ukraine will worsen the situation by inflating prices, according to the WFP.

“While the world’s attention turns to Ukraine, it’s important we don’t forget East Africa and allow funding for humanitarian assistance to dry up just when it’s needed most,” Dunford said. WFP needs $327 million to support 4.5 million people, he said.

The US Agency for International Development announced on Wednesday $114 million in humanitarian aid to support efforts in the three countries.

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