Britain pledges £38m to help Ethiopia's starving

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Britain has pledged to provide food for 1.3 million starving people in Ethiopia, as the country suffers its worst drought in a decade.

With an estimated 3.2 million Ethiopians in need of emergency aid, the International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, pledged £38m towards tackling the problem. Some 329,000 malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers will also receive treatment.

"Through no fault of its own, the Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought caused by the failed rains," Mr Mitchell said. "Britain is acting quickly and decisively in Ethiopia to stop this crisis becoming a catastrophe. We will provide vital food to help 1.3 million people through the next three months.

"For the response to be effective, we need the most up-to-date, accurate information on the level of need in Ethiopia. The country has made great strides in many areas over the past 30 years and this emergency relief will help to ensure that these gains are not eroded."

Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopia's hungry face starvation in the next three months, the driest period of the year in the country, and the UN has called for international aid across the Horn of Africa, where some areas are suffering the worst drought since the 1950s.

Britain's aid is only a fraction of the amount needed to tackle the problem, but the pledge was welcomed by charities and aid workers.

"The money cannot come soon enough," said Oxfam's humanitarian director, Jane Cocking. "There are already critical and life-threatening food shortages in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa region.

"Two successive poor rains have left millions of people struggling to get food as hundreds of thousands of livestock have died and crops have failed. Other donors now need to follow suit and increase funding before it is too late."