- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya (Agence France-Presse) | A sweeping drought across East Africa has left millions of people at risk of starvation in a region plagued by increasingly erratic rainfall, humanitarian organizations and officials warn.

Huge food shortages and loss of livelihood have left 6.2 million Ethiopians needing relief aid, while about 3.8 million in Kenya’s arid areas, where livestock is being decimated, have also been affected, U.N, agencies say.

War-ravaged Somalia, meanwhile, is witnessing its worst humanitarian crisis since civil unrest erupted there two decades ago, with a third of its 10 million people in need of food assistance and one in every five children acutely malnourished.

For Kenya, “this is the worst [drought] in nearly a decade. One in 10 Kenyans are in need of food assistance,” Marcus Prior, a World Food Program (WFP) spokesman in Nairobi, told Agence France-Presse.

“The situation is extremely serious. Rains have failed across many areas,” said Mr. Prior, whose organization recently appealed for $230 million to help drought victims.

In a region where small-scale subsistence farming is the mainstay of a majority of the population, the impact of climate change on rainy seasons can often have dramatic consequences.

The WFP is also feeding more than 1 million Ugandans, mainly in the northern and eastern regions as a prolonged drought weighs heavy on the people.

“If the rains do not [increase] in the next few days, then we are headed for trouble,” Ugandan Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko told Agence France-Presse.

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