Le Carré joins appeal for Kenyan drought victims

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The Independent Online

John le Carré, whose book The Constant Gardener was made into a Hollywood blockbuster, has joined an appeal for funds to save millions of Kenyans from starvation in the area where the film was shot.

"In the worst drought of the decade, 3.5 million people in northern Kenya are in imminent danger of starving to death, dying of thirst, or being killed in fights for survival," he said. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if, this time round, we devoted as much money and energy to saving 3.5 million of our fellow citizens as we do to making war in other regions of the globe."

Part of The Constant Gardener was shot in Loiyangalani, in the drought-affected district of Turkana. The drought conditions extend throughout the Horn of Africa, where 2.6 million Ethiopians and 1.7 million Somalis are also suffering from food shortages. Oxfam will warn today that pastoralists may take 15 years to recover their livelihoods unless they receive appropriate support. Up to 95 per cent of cattle in some areas have died because of the drought and local economies are crumbling. In Wajir, north-east Kenya, about 70 per cent of small shops have closed because customers are unable to repay mounting debts.

Even if the drought does break in April when the rains are due to arrive, millions of people will need years of external help simply to survive.

The United Nations has appealed for $400m (£230m) to help the drought victims. But the UN special humanitarian envoy for the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik, said he was struggling to get the international community's attention. "There are a number of important countries that are not willing to help out because they are disenchanted and think the situation is hopeless," said Mr Bondevik, a former Norwegian prime minister.

He was reluctant to point the finger, but it is known that there have been particular difficulties in persuading the US and Arab nations to respond to the crisis in Africa. "It is our challenge to get the donors to trust that their help is making a difference," he said. "It is also necessary to convince them to stay for a longer time. This will help Africa to be more prepared for the next drought."

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