The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says millions of people are on the brink of starvation in the Horn of Africa. Overall, it?s estimated that 11 million people need food assistance in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Shukri Ahmed is with the FAO?s Global Information and Early Warning System. From Rome, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the situation in the Horn of Africa.

?I think it is very, very serious indeed. And what makes it even more so is we?re just now at the beginning of the dry season in most of these countries, where the harvest has just come in normal years and people should have been now in a better position. Now, what we have seen is that this drought situation has affected specifically the pastoralist areas of the Horn of Africa. And unfortunately, with the dry season coming in, rainfall is March, April away (sic) and even that now is not really certain that there will be a normal rainfall,? he says.

The FAO says food shortages are ?particularly grave? in Somalia. Mr. Ahmed says, ?In Somalia, the problem actually started in the summer of this year, where the main season harvest, which was supposed to have happened around August, has failed. It was one of the lowest in the last 10 years and we were hoping that the secondary season, whose harvest is now about to start, would at least recuperate some of that situation. But unfortunately, the second season has also failed.?

About two million people are said to need food aid in Somalia.

In Kenya, the FAO says some deaths have been reported following crop failure and depletion of livestock. The FAO official says while food assistance programs exist in many of the affected areas, he says they need to be stepped up now.