Suffering a devastating drought that kills millions of livestock in the Horn of Africa, the threat of starvation looms in parts of the region, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Tuesday.
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"Meteorological and humanitarian agencies are warning of the threat of starvation following four consecutive failed rainy seasons in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia," OCHA said, adding that four failed rainy seasons are a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years.
With Somalia facing the risk of famine in six areas, UN humanitarian partners are transitioning from drought response to famine prevention, said OCHA's latest situation report. It wants to target the most vulnerable populations and develop a Famine Prevention Plan.
The drought devastates livelihoods and drives a sharp increase in food, water, and nutrition insecurity, OCHA said. Some 3.6 million livestock died in Kenya and Ethiopia, and in the worst-affected areas of Somalia, about a third of the livestock perished since the middle of last year.
About 16.7 million people face high acute food insecurity, and the number could increase to 20 million by September. It has reached the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Food Insecurity Level 3+. More than 80,000 suffer extreme hunger at IPC 5, the worst phase.
Severe acute malnutrition is rising across the three countries, posing an immediate threat to the lives of children in drought-affected areas. Meteorological experts forecast a substantial risk that the next rainy season could fail, leading to an unprecedented situation from October to December.
"The United Nations and our humanitarian partners have reached 6.5 million people in drought-affected areas across the three countries with assistance including food, water, nutrition, and health services," the office said. "The response needs to be further scaled up to save lives and livelihoods in the months to come. We call on donors to urgently support partners to take swift action."