12 million facing starvation in Africa, say charities

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A trio of the UK's biggest charities launched a fresh appeal over the worsening situation in the horn of Africa yesterday, with Oxfam describing the food shortages as the worst so far this century.

Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross all asked the public for funds to help get food and clean water to people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is thought that 12 million people in the region are facing the possibility of starvation and that many have already left their homes to head to areas with more plentiful resources. None of the charities are ruling out the prospect that the situation could result in a full scale famine, displacing millions from agricultural lands, with Save the Children saying that malnutrition rates had reached 30 per cent in some areas of Somalia.

"This is the worst food crisis of the 21st Century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost," said Jane Cocking, Oxfam's Humanitarian Director. The charity's request for £50m, its largest ever appeal for Africa, followed the start of a campaign by the British Red Cross, which blamed crippling food prices for one of the reasons for the draught.

Barry Armstrong, British Red Cross' disaster response manager, said: "Because of the drought we're seeing crop failures and widespread deaths of livestock, and, coupled with increasing food prices, people simply aren't able to get enough to eat."