Eleven million risk starvation as East Africa drought continues

Eleven million people are at risk of death from hunger and thirst as the effects of continuing drought in East Africa are compounded by regional conflict, the UN special investigator on the right to food has warned.

“Severe droughts coupled with the effects of past and present conflicts have led to acute shortages of water and food,” UN special rapporteur Jean Ziegler said Monday.

The drought and resulting lack of food already affects six million people in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, the European Commission estimates.

Hundreds of people and tens of thousands of livestock have died since the drought began last autumn, when rains failed following a decade of low rainfall. The coming months are not likely to bring relief, as rains between March and May are expected to be below average.

Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said:

“The lack of rain in parts of East Africa has put the livelihoods of millions of people at risk. The problem is not the lack of food. It’s just that many farmers face losing their cattle and are just too poor to buy the food that is available.”

The UN special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Kjell Bondevik, has blamed the lack of rain over the last two seasons on climate change.

The European Commission said Tuesday it will give an extra 5m euros in emergency humanitarian aid to East Africa, adding to the 73m euros it has allocated to the crisis so far.

Europe also funds longer-term research and projects aimed at improving water governance, water supply and sanitation infrastructure in Africa.

As government and business representatives debate the global water crisis at the Fourth Water Forum in Mexico (March 16-22), the Commission reviewed water projects so far funded through its Research Framework Programme.

European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potoènik said: “Good policy is based on good science. This review shows that the research we have done in water management so far has helped put better policy in place.”

The Commission’s Water Facility, which funds water access projects in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions, looks to allocate a further 178m euros to the second batch of projects. A call for project proposals is to be launched on 31 March.

90% of Water Facility money so far has gone to Africa, where over a third of the population has no access to clean drinking water.

By Goska Romanowicz

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