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FAO Holds Urgent Meeting About Horn of Africa

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Director General Jacques Diouf (R) speaks during a meeting in Rome about the famine crisis in the Horn of Africa August 18, 2011

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss urgent measures to fight the food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Agricultural ministers from many of the FAO's 193 member countries attended the one-day conference.

It was the second meeting hosted by the FAO within a month to take action in support of the drought-hit region. According to the FAO, the Horn of Africa urgently needs an additional $103 million specifically to rebuild agriculture and fight famine.

A woman walks past carcasses of cattle in the drought-stricken Eladow area in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, August 4, 2011
A woman walks past carcasses of cattle in the drought-stricken Eladow area in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, August 4, 2011

A severe drought that has turned to famine in parts of southern Somalia has left about 3.6 million Somalis and about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa at risk.

The FAO says it has asked for $161 million to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers across the Horn, but has received just $57 million, slightly more than a third of that amount.

The chief of the FAO issued a stark warning to governments around the world about the drought and long-term prospects in the Horn of Africa.

Jacques Diouf told delegates that it is “our responsibility to provide effective assistance” to famine- and drought affected people.

He said with today's technical and financial resources it is "unacceptable" for more than 12 million people to be at risk of starvation today.

Diouf added that if governments and their donor partners do not invest in improving agriculture in the Horn of Africa, the appalling famine the world is struggling to address will return, and will shame the international community yet again.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Program says it has “zero tolerance” for any case in which food aid fails to reach the needy, amid reports that shipments of food have been stolen in famine-hit Somalia.

The U.N. agency’s deputy executive director, Sheila Sisulu, said Thursday that when it hears of food gone astray it immediately investigates.

In the past two months some 220,000 people have fled toward the Somali capital of Mogadishu and across the borders to Kenya and Ethiopia, where refugee camps are straining under the pressure of new arrivals.