20 mn people in East Africa require food aid: UN

Nairobi, June 1 (IANS) About 19.9 million people in Eastern Africa require humanitarian aid as food security situation in the countries affected are not expected to improve, the UN humanitarian agency said on Wednesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said an estimated 31.6 million people were already food insecure in Southern Africa, Xinhua news agency reported.

“While the meagre April/May 2016 harvest will temporarily improve food access in parts of the region over the short term, food security is likely to begin deteriorating by July, reaching its peak between December 2016 and April 2017,” OCHA said in a report.

Throughout the region, heavy rains that intensified in late April have resulted in excessive flooding, affecting more than half a million people; damaging infrastructure and livelihoods and caused over 370 deaths.

“Although the rains have also brought relief to some areas that have been affected by the worst drought in decades such as parts of Ethiopia, Puntland, Somaliland and a number of countries in southern Africa, the food security situation in these areas is not expected to significantly improve, due to the scale and intensity of the El Nino-induced drought that has already depleted coping mechanisms,” it said.

According to the UN, the rains have exacerbated the risk of communicable diseases in the region.

“As of May 25, several countries in the region had reported over 47,000 suspected cases of cholera and more than 970 cholera-related deaths; 1,935 confirmed and 1,400 suspected cases of measles; and over 2,480 cases of yellow fever and over 300 yellow-fever related deaths,” it said.

Meanwhile, East Africa’s bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is projecting flooding in its 11 member countries mainly in the Northern region.

Director of Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC) at IGAD Guleid Artan said in Naivasha late Tuesday that the effects of the El-Nino rain had led to the current humanitarian crisis.

He pointed out to countries in the north as the one which would be affected by the flooding during the long rains which are expected to start anytime.

Guleid noted that mitigations measures put in place by member countries before the El Nino rains had seen lives saved, adding that the effects of the rains had been minimised.

Director with the World Bank (WB) Prashant Singh said the institution had $500 million to support various countries put in place mitigation measures.

Singh admitted that the food situation mainly in Ethiopia was worrying, adding WB was ready to chip in and address the current situation.

“We have over 10.3 million in Ethiopia who are in dire need of food and we are ready to work with IGAD and other donors to address the current situation,” he said.

Assistant Director in the ministry of special programme Gordon Muga defended the government over the manner it handled the El Nino rains.

He said a total of 1.5 billion Kenyan shillings was allocated to various government departments to put in place mitigations measures and effects of the rains.

“As we head to the long rains, we have activated the national contingent plan and set up eight coordination hubs across the country to inform the public and prepare for the rains,” he said.

–IANS

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