A top United Nations official is calling on the international community
to make sure the drought in Ethiopia does not degenerate into a famine.
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes arrived in Ethiopia Monday to meet with officials and to get a first-hand look at the impact of the drought.
He began the three-day visit with a tour of the Arba Minch region, about 500 kilometers south of the capital Addis Ababa.
Holmes said relief operations are underway, but that aid agencies must make sure food aid reaches everyone in need.
The U.N. says more than four million Ethiopians need emergency assistance, while another eight million are in need of immediate food relief.
The U.N. has been warning of a growing humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, where a total of 14 million people are in need of emergency food relief and other assistance.
Officials with the U.N.'s World Food Program blame the crisis on drought, insecurity and the global rise in food prices.
Last month, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appealed for almost $8 million in aid for Ethiopia's southern Wolaiyta region. The IFRC says people there have exhausted their resources and are no longer able to feed themselves.
An official with the Ethiopian Red Cross said more than 1,600 malnourished children in the region have been placed in intensive care.