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20 million face starvation across Horn of Africa amid extreme droughts: WFP

Displaced people line up for food at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary shelter for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The United Nations food agency has warned that 20 million people in countries across the Horn of Africa are at risk of starvation this year due to delayed rains and subsequent extreme drought battering the region.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday that “the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022.”

In Somalia, six millions were facing extreme levels of food crisis and there was “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions prevailed, the agency said.

The number of Kenyans in need of assistance has increased more than fourfold in less than two years. In addition to that, half a million people across the country were on the brink of a hunger crisis.

Malnutrition rates in drought-hit southern and southeastern Ethiopia have also surged above emergency thresholds. The north of the country has been in the grip of a 17-month fighting between government forces and rebels.

The agency said that the dire conditions had been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has contributed to soaring food costs and disrupted global supply chains.

Aid workers say the brutal drought has pushed the region to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying crops and forcing huge numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water.

The WFP says it needs nearly $473 million to respond to urgent needs over the next six months. A previous appeal in February raised less than 4 percent of the cash needed.

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