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Red Cross launches East Africa Crisis Appeal

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9 March 2017

The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal as millions of people across East Africa face critical food shortages.

The UN has already declared famine in two counties of South Sudan, while the threat of famine in Somalia could soon become a reality if action is not taken now.

Millions of people are also in desperate need in Kenya and Ethiopia, both of which have been hit by severe drought.

Warning signs

In total, more than 20 million people are in need of help across the four countries.

Ben Webster, British Red Cross head of emergencies, said: "There is the very real danger that people will die of starvation in the coming weeks and months, unless the international community increases its aid effort now.

"All the warning signs are there. If the rainy season fails again, then we are looking at a catastrophic situation. We simply cannot afford to wait until that point before action is taken.

"The Red Cross Movement has been working in the region for many years, and we are drastically increasing our emergency response to meet the vast humanitarian need.

"Our emergency appeal, which reflects the severity of the situation, will support our humanitarian efforts in the region."

Drought takes hold

In large parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, successive poor rainy seasons have contributed to a severe drought.

The lack of rainfall has led to reduced pasture land, water shortages and the loss of large numbers of livestock.

The shortage of food means people are not getting nutritious, balanced diets.

As a result, malnutrition rates are alarmingly high with women and children suffering the most.

Conflict and hunger

Conflict in some parts of the region is also fuelling this crisis.

Protracted conflicts have forced growing numbers of people to flee their homes in Somalia and South Sudan.

This means crops are not cultivated and trade is cut off.

South Sudan has been affected by violence for many years, which has seriously undermined people's ability to provide for themselves.

It is a similar story in Somalia, where more than a quarter of a century of fighting has compounded the effect of reduced rainfall.

The insecurity means humanitarian access can be difficult to obtain, leaving people without crucial aid.

Webster added: "Memories are still raw of the famine that killed more than a quarter of a million people just six years ago in Somalia. Urgent action is needed to avert another catastrophe."

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