New famine fear for Ethiopia

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The Independent Online

Nearly 16 million people in drought striken eastern Africa are at risk from starvation, according to a UN report.

The Rome based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said the number of people needing assistance could increase, as crop weather forecasts were discouraging.

Pastoral areas of southeastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and several parts of Somalia were experiencing grave food shortages due to successive years of poor rains.

"The threat of starvation is severe in parts of eastern Africa with nearly 16 million people in need of emergency food assistance." it said in a report entitled 'Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa'.

Hardest hit is Ethiopia, where more than eight million people are at risk of famine this year, while in Kenya nearly 2.7 million people are facing severe food shortages, the FAO said.

"Only a massive international effort in the coming months in support of the affected populations can avert further human suffering and loss of life." it added.

As well as drought, civil conflicts in parts of east Africa were disrupting food production and distribution, triggering food shortages and mass population displacements, FAO said.

The United States says it will donate 400,000 tonnes of aid to Ethiopia, but aid officials have complained of a poor response from other countries to a U.N. appeal for $190 million for Ethiopia this year.

The head of the U.N.'s World Food Programme, Catherine Bertini, will travel to the region later this month to plan famine relief measures, consulting closely with FAO.