East Africa’s humanitarian crisis deteriorates rapidly as aid effort fails to keep pace

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 02 Aug 2011

International aid agency Oxfam says governments and donors must act with greater urgency in the face of a deteriorating crisis and rising needs in East Africa.

With more than half a million people at risk of starvation, the agency said the international community is failing to keep pace with a crisis that is spiralling out of control.

The United Nations estimates the total number of people in need could rise by 25 per cent and exceed 15 million soon if urgent action on all fronts is not taken, such as providing emergency food, water and shelter.

As the crisis deteriorates, the amount of money needed goes up. Last week, the UN increased its appeals for Somalia and Kenya by $600 million, bringing the funding shortfall to $1.47 billion.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said: “East Africa’s humanitarian crisis is at the tipping point. Hundreds of thousands will face starvation unless donors step forward, maintain the generosity we have seen in recent weeks and help prevent a catastrophe.

“Aid agencies on the ground are ready and we’ve deployed our best people. Where access is possible, aid agencies like Oxfam have increased their programs to reach people and save as many lives as we can.”

Oxfam aims to scale up its work to reach three million people across Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

New UN figures show that 564,000 people are at risk of death without urgent intervention in the region. Some 183,000 refugees have left war-torn Somalia towards Ethiopia or Kenya since the beginning of year, according to the UN.

Oxfam warns that conditions over the next three to four months are set to worsen in Ethiopia, Kenya and parts of southern Somalia and the situation will remain classified as an “emergency” until the end of the year.

The whole south of Somalia is likely to be declared a famine due to a combination of worsening pastoral conditions, further food price increases and poor harvest.

In Somalia, Oxfam is providing water and sanitation to more than 230,000 people on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The agency is also assisting more than 60,000 people who have fled drought zones of southern Somalia and have arrived in the capital.

Throughout Somalia, the agency is reaching more than 500,000 people who benefit from various programs that include water and sanitation services, and cash-for-work projects.

Notes to editors:

New Zealander and Oxfam spokesperson Janna Hamilton is in Dadaab, Kenya, and available for interviews via BGan Satellite and mobile phone.

For interviews or more information contact Chee Chee Leung in Australia on +61 400 732 795 or Alun McDonald in Kenya on +254 73666 6663.