Five countries in East Africa face dire food insecurity after a third poor rainy season in a row, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.
Areas in five countries - Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda - received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall.
"The current phenomenon encompasses an area of about 1 million square kilometers, which is roughly twice the size of France," FAO economist Alessandro Costantino told VOA's Africa division.
The extended drought along with a pest called an armyworm has drastically reduced crop yields, leaving millions in East Africa without enough food.
"About 16 million people are estimated to be food insecure in these countries and food insecurity actually increased by one third in the last six months," he said, adding that in Somalia alone, the food insecure case load tripled in the last 12 months.
Besides the widespread loss of crops, livestock herds have been decimated, causing milk production to plummet, further adding to food insecurity.
The U.N. agency says rangeland and livestock conditions are expected to continue deteriorating at least until October, when the next rainy season is due.