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Kenyan herders flee as cattle die in Horn of Africa drought
by Staff Writers
Wajir, Kenya (AFP) July 21, 2011

Canadian offers aid to East Africa famine victims
Ottawa (AFP) July 20, 2011 - Canada "is committed to making a difference" in the lives of the nearly 12 million Horn of Africa residents facing severe drought and battling hunger, Minister of International Cooperation, Beverley Oda, said en route to Kenya Wednesday.

The United Nations on Wednesday requested an additional $500 million in humanitarian aid in 2011 in order to address what it is calling the worst food crisis in Africa in 20 years.

"The situation facing people in the region, especially the women and children, is dire. Canada is committed to making a real difference in their lives," said Oda.

In Kenya, the minister will visit refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, where thousands of Somalis are arriving every day. The camps, originally intended for 90,000 refugees, currently hold almost 400,000 people.

Abdi Seikh Musa was once a flourishing livestock herder, but now, as extreme drought grips the Horn of Africa, his animals are dying as the people of northern Kenya struggle for survival.

"I used to have 200 goats, but now only 40," said Musa, who comes from the dusty village of Elaada, in the sun-baked lands close to Kenya's border with Somalia. "It's very bad," the elderly man added sadly.

Some 12 million people are battling hunger in the region's worst drought in 60 years, and on Wednesday the UN officially declared famine in two southern Somalia regions.

Over 78,000 Somalis have fled to seek refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya in the last two months.

Many have streamed into Kenya's overcrowded camps, now hosting some 380,000 people -- more than four times the original capacity.

But the people in northern Kenya are also suffering, as the pastoralist communities who live from livestock herding watch helplessly as their animals die, forcing many to abandon their homes and move southward.

The carcasses of dead animals litter the side of the sandy road, their flesh baked so dry in the sun that vultures do not bother to pick at the meat.

"That's what happened to our animals," Musa said, waving at the shrunken remains of cows.

"Before the disaster, we could sell a cow, and that would pay for school uniforms for our children and other family needs," he added.

"But today, we depend entirely on the help of others."

The UN food agency is distributing food in the region, but officials say they are struggling to meet the intensifying demands.

"The needs are immense," said Benjamin Makokha, a local official with the World Food Programme. "Everyday the situation grows worse."

The few animals that have survived are walking skeletons, herders said.

"I used to have over 150 cows but now have only four left," said Mahmud Abdi, an 80-year old cattlekeeper.

"And for those four cows left, they are only cattle because they have their horns -- they are now just moving carcasses," he said.

Even wild animals have suffered, with herders saying that the rotting bodies of giraffes and hyenas have been seen in the bush.

Many people have therefore fled the region, moving more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) southward to Harakhokthot in search of water and grazing to keep their animals alive.

There, goats, sheep and camels drink in a pond, as the herders sit idly nearby.

Wild jackals also watch the animals, waiting for a chance to grab those too sick to run.

"Farmers have gathered here from the surrounding areas, but many of the animals were lost on the way," said Omar Abdirahaman, the village headman.

"Our animals are dying, and if it continues, we may follow," he added.

The herders say the future looks ominous.

"There is no market, no more jobs, no way to earn money - people here have nothing to do," added Abdirahaman, also a local government official.

But while people are moving in search of help, some 60 kilometres further south down the dusty track at the small village of Dilmanyaley, the situation is no better.

The monotony of the flatlands are broken only by dry and stunted trees.

The skin is stretched tight over the bones of cattle carcasses, half hidden in the sand.

For many in this vast and arid region, the rains are a distant memory.

"My younger students have never seen drops of water fall from the sky since they were born," said Adan Mohamed, headmaster at the school in the village of Lokulta.

"I'm sure that when it rains, many will cry."

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UN to start food aid airlift into Mogadishu: WFP
Rome (AFP) July 21, 2011 - The World Food Programme will start flying aid into Mogadishu "within days", the UN agency's director said Thursday, after the United Nations officially declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia.

Speaking during a visit to the Somali capital, Josette Sheeran said WFP was also looking at ways of getting food supplies into drought-stricken areas controlled by the Islamist rebel group Shebab "as quickly as possible".

"WFP will start airlifts within days into Mogadishu to get vital supplies of special nutritious foods for the malnourished children who so desperately need it," Sheeran was quoted as saying in a statement from WFP headquarters in Rome.

"WFP welcomes the statements of those controlling areas of southern Somalia, that humanitarian aid will now be allowed," she said, referring to statements from Islamist militants earlier this month about allowing aid agencies in.

"We are testing the ground to see how we can best get life-saving supplies in as quickly as possible to those at the epicentre of the famine in the south.

"WFP is preparing to open up a number of new routes -- by land and air -- into the core of the famine zone," she added.

A WFP spokesman earlier said that the agency was looking into possible airlifts into the south of the country, working with a partner on the ground to ensure the aid would reach the people most in need.

Sheeran said the WFP was reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia and was scaling up operations to reach an additional 2.2 million in the south.

The WFP was forced to pull out of southern Somalia last year after a series of threats and curbs on its operations from Shebab rebels, but it has continued to operate in Mogadishu and central and northern regions of the war-torn country.

In Mogadishu alone, WFP assists approximatley 300,000 people and it has been scaling up operations with three new centres to feed the large numbers of internally displaced people flooding into the city from the south.

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UN declares famine in southern Somalia
Nairobi (AFP) July 20, 2011
The UN officially declared famine in two southern Somalia regions Wednesday as the world slowly mobilised to save 12 million people battling hunger in the region's worst drought in 60 years. The United States urged Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels controlling the area to allow the return of relief groups they expelled two years ago, while aid groups warned many would die without urgent action ... read more

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