Nairobi (Times Of Ocean) – As delayed rains worsen an already brutal drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, 20 million people face starvation this year, the United Nations warned Tuesday.
Horn of Africa has been experiencing an extreme, months-long drought that has destroyed crops and livestock, forcing large numbers of people to flee their homes in search of food and water.
As long-awaited rains have failed to materialise nearly a month into the current rainy season, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that hunger could rise from the current estimate of 14 million people to 20 million by 2022.
The World Food Programme reports that 6 million Somalis, or 40% of the population, are facing extreme levels of food insecurity, and “famine is very likely in the coming months” if current conditions persist.
Half a million people in Kenya were on the verge of starvation, with communities in the north of the country especially vulnerable because of their reliance on livestock.
In less than two years, the number of Kenyans requiring assistance has more than quadrupled.
In the meantime, malnutrition rates have surged in drought-hit southern and southeastern Ethiopia, while the country’s north has been engulfed in a 17-month war between government forces and Tigrayan rebels.
WFP said the conditions have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has contributed to soaring food and fuel prices, and disrupted global supply chains.
A lack of funding could trigger a catastrophe, the agency warned, calling for $473 million (438 million euros) over the next six months.
In February, a previous appeal raised less than four percent of the cash needed.
“We know from past experience that acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is crucial, though our ability to launch a response has been limited due to a lack of funding,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for East Africa.
In 2017, East Africa was ravaged by a harrowing drought, but early humanitarian intervention prevented a famine in Somalia.
In contrast, 260,000 people — half of them children under the age of six — died of hunger or hunger-related disorders in 2011 after a famine struck the country.
Climate change is causing extreme weather events to become more frequent and intense.