International aid agency Oxfam has launched an appeal in Australia in response to a massive food crisis facing more than 12 million people across drought-stricken Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
Oxfam Australia’s Africa regional manager Andrew Hartwich described the situation in East Africa as the worst food crisis of the 21st century, with some areas recording their driest conditions in 60 years.
Mr Hartwich said: “Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival.
“We are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost. We need to provide immediate assistance before it’s too late.
“People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months – we need funds to help us reach people with life-saving food and water.
“Livestock are already dying, there are alarming levels of malnutrition, and the price of water and food is rising because of sudden shortages.”
The epicentre of the drought has hit the poorest people in an area straddling the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where families rely heavily on livestock for survival.
In some parts of this region, up to 60 per cent of people’s herds have already died while the remainder are either sick or dangerously underweight.
The price of animals has plummeted by half while the cost of cereals has soared. In Somalia the price of a main staple, sorghum, has risen by a massive 240 per cent since this time last year.
Many people are leaving their homes in search of food, water and pasture, with reports of men, women and children walking for days on end.
About 9000 refugees a week are arriving from Somalia at the Dadaab camp in north-eastern Kenya, and increasing numbers of people are also fleeing to Ethiopia.
Among the most vulnerable are mothers, pregnant women, the elderly and children. The UN is reporting almost half the children arriving in refugee camps in Ethiopia from southern Somalia are malnourished.
Oxfam is already scaling up its work in response to the worst food crisis on the planet today. It hopes to reach three million people in dire need of clean water, food and basic sanitation in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
“This is a preventable disaster and solutions are possible. It’s no coincidence that the worst affected areas are the poorest and least developed in the region. It’s unacceptable that this is happening again,” Mr Hartwich said.
To donate to Oxfam’s East Africa Food Crisis appeal visit www.oxfam.org.au or call 1800 034 034.
Notes to editors: Photos from Kenya are available
For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795.