U.N. and aid agencies warn millions of people in the Horn of Africa face possible starvation and are in desperate need of support. The U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates some 11 million people throughout the region are in need of food aid.
The short rains between October and December did not come. Consequently, the seasonal harvests have been poor. U.N. aid agencies say food shortages in the Horn of Africa are worsening.
The World Food Program says the situation in Kenya is particularly dire. Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says WFP currently is feeding 1.1 million people in the country. But she says there are indications that 2.5 million people will need food assistance in the coming months because of the drought.
"The first alarm, or the first indicator of this situation, was raised by the authorities, by the government, who told us, 'look, there are too many camels and donkeys that are dying right now in December, in the northern part of the country," she said. "Normally, there is also a fair amount of animals that do die in this semi-deserted area. But, the number was too important, and this was really when we realized that there was a potential crisis over there. Not enough food. Not enough water."
Ms. Berthiaume says more and more malnourished children are being seen in health centers. She says, many are suffering from hunger-related diseases. Some are dying from malaria, and more children are getting diarrhea.
She says WFP is running a shortfall of $46 million for its current food assistance operations. If the agency has to boost the number of beneficiaries to 2.5 million, she says, WFP will need an additional $140 million.
In the meantime, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for more than $10 million to help 329,000 people in northern Kenya hit by drought and hunger.
A Red Cross Spokeswoman, Amna Al-Ahmar, says some of the aid will go for emergency food, with special rations for children to reduce alarming rates of child malnutrition.
But, she says Kenya is not the only country about which the Red Cross Federation has concerns.
"Somalia is quite badly affected as bad as Kenya, if not worse," she said. "But, of course, Somalia is also suffering from a conflict, which worsens the situation. Loss of livestock has already been seen. The Federation is already taking action in Eritrea, and has been doing so for the last year. Ethiopia, we are also looking into now. There is also the drought situation. Not as bad as Somalia, but it is looking the same. Now, there is also Burundi, which has also come up in the radar.
Ms. al-Ahmar says the critical shortage of food and water in these countries is very worrisome. She says the Red Cross is planning to launch appeals for these drought-stricken countries in the near future.