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UN Forecasts Continuing Drought in Horn Of Africa

The U.N. World Meteorological Organization forecasts continuing drought through early April in the Horn of Africa.

The World Meteorological Organization says Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, southern Sudan, northern Uganda, and northeast Tanzania are likely to experience below normal rainfall, while the northern parts of the region are likely to remain very dry. It says several of the worst affected areas in the Greater Horn of Africa have recorded their driest months since 1961.

WMO spokesman, Mark Oliver, says the ongoing drought will continue to impact the lives and economies of these countries.

"These impacts include loss of life, livestock, livelihoods, property, dwindling supplies of pasture, water and food, and a heavy dependence on aid relief," he said. "There are some areas, mainly eastern and south eastern Kenya. They did not benefit from last year's March-May seasonal rainfall which is, of course, coming up again this year and they may suffer such impacts for most of this year."

The United Nations warns the Horn of Africa is facing a humanitarian crisis. It notes 11 million people in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti are in urgent need of assistance.

U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs tells VOA the drought has killed dozens of people, hundreds of head of livestock and has raised fears of an outbreak of disease. She says aid workers are having particular difficulty in assisting people in Somalia because fighting continues and the country does not have a central government.

"For instance, we are facing logistical constraints and also access problems," she said. "That is why we appealed today, we urged the local communities, the political communities, the regional and local leaders for the general mobilization to fight this unprecedented humanitarian crisis which has been aggravated by the worst drought in a decade in Somalia."

Byrs says the most urgent needs are for food, water and sanitation, and medical care. She says malnutrition rates in the area are rising. She says there is increasing concern that many people who are weak from hunger may not be able to fight off disease.