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Famine in Africa: Severe Drought Leaves East Africa in Dire Straits

Famine in Africa: Severe Drought Leaves East Africa in Dire Straits

Over 11 million people are facing a severe hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, caused by a deadly drought spreading across the region of East Africa which is the worst experienced by the continent in 60 years.

The drought is having devastating impacts on numerous countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Tens of thousands of people have already died, and more continue to be at risk, with children highlighted as the most vulnerable.

Staggeringly nearly half a million children are at risk of dying and of catching deadly diseases due to malnutrition. With such astonishing numbers, the crisis has already been labeled the "children's famine."

World Food Program director, Josette Sheeran, has stated that many of the children arriving at refugee camps arrive when they are already in the latter stages of malnutrition. As such, even with food and medical assistance, less than 40 percent of these malnourished children will survive.

War-ravaged Somalia has been the worst hit by the drought in the region. Two of Somalia's southern regions are already facing famine conditions with the rest of Somalia "close to famine conditions," according to Mark Bowden the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

Bowden stressed the need for speedy aid and "exceptional action" to help the nearly 3.7 million Somalis in crisis.

Further complicating the situation in Somalia is its powerful Islamist militant group, Al Shabab. In early July, the group announced it would begin to allow aid agencies that had been previously blocked from operating within its boarders to deliver much needed aid. However, just last week it rescinded its invitation and said that it would not allow any aid groups into the country that it considered Western or Christian.

Thus, the famine is leading to a mass exodus of Somali's from southern Somalia into Mogadishu and into neighboring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia in an attempt to find food, water, and medical assistance.

The United Nations officially declared drought in the region last week and is working with the international community to coordinate an action plan.

Early warning signs of drought in the region had been delivered by agencies such as the Famine Early Warning System, however, none of the early warning system information resulted in sufficient action by the international community.

Aid and poverty advocates are now scrambling for governments, aid agencies, and donors to come together to offer relief to the victims of the drought. Thus far, the United States has been the biggest contributor to relief efforts followed by the European Union and Japan.

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