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Humanitarian Crisis Worsening in Horn of Africa


The top U.N. humanitarian official says that conflict, drought, and the global food crisis are worsening the already dire situation in the Horn of Africa. This has left millions of people needing emergency food assistance to combat severe food shortages. From U.N. headquarters, intern Maha Saad has the story.

U.N. Humanitarian Chief John Holmes says that the long-standing crisis in the Horn of Africa has been made worse by the global food crisis.

"The point is that large areas of the Horn of Africa, including parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya, are now in or sliding towards a humanitarian emergency," said John Holmes. "And we believe there are something like 14 million people now in urgent need of food aid and other humanitarian assistance in the coming months."

Holmes says drought and rising food and fuel prices have heightened the crisis along with on-going conflicts in many nations, particularly in Somalia.

"There is an intense conflict going on in parts of Somalia," he said. "We calculated something like 850,000 people have been forced to leave Mogadishu over the last year because of the fighting there. So, you have a compounded problem of the ordinary population with an additional population of newly displaced people facing these severe food shortages."

In Ethiopia, Holmes says a severe drought and diseases such as diarrhea, measles, and meningitis, have compounded the humanitarian crisis.

"In Southern Ethiopia, where there is a severe drought, a joint assessment by the government and international humanitarian partners reveals that 4.6 million people were now in need of food emergency support," said Holmes. "And as part of those 4.7 million, we believe there is something like 75,000 children severely malnourished."

Holmes is urging the international community, as well as national governments, to ensure that the necessary resources are available to deal with this crisis and to curb the effects of malnutrition, including stunted growth and susceptibility to diseases.