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Somalia drought to worsen, famine possible: US
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) July 8, 2011

The US government has warned that a drought in the Horn of Africa is likely to worsen by the end of the year, putting parts of war-ravaged Somalia at risk of famine.

"Our experts... expect the perilous situation in the Horn of Africa to worsen through the end of the year," Nancy Lindborg, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said Thursday.

"Given limited labor opportunities, the dwindling food stocks, and sky-high cereal prices, many households cannot put food on the table right now," she said at a House of Representatives commission hearing.

Lindborg said an initial assessment found that this year's harvest will be a "failure" in the southern Lower Shabelle region and "well below normal" in the neighboring region of Bay.

She said in a normal season the two regions account for 71 percent of the total cereal production of southern Somalia.

"As unfortunate as it may be, we do expect the situation in Somalia to continue to decline," Lindborg said.

"Famine conditions are possible in the worst affected areas depending on the evolution of food prices, conflict, and humanitarian response," she added.

She added that the United States would continue to work with the international community to explore ways of providing aid to Somalia and to people fleeing the country, which has been mired in war for two decades.

The United States said Wednesday it is ready to test the word of Somali Islamist insurgents, who control much of the country and have appealed for foreign aid in the face of the drought.

For two years the Shebab insurgents, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, have curbed foreign aid groups from working in the region.

The United Nations last week warned that 10 million people in the Horn of Africa -- which includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea -- faced the worst drought in 60 years.

A poor rainy season and rising food prices have also led to severe food shortages in Kenya and Uganda.

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Drought forces thousands of Somalis into Ethiopia
Addis Ababa (AFP) July 7, 2011 - Thousands of Somalis have fled into neighbouring Ethiopia to seek relief from a harsh drought that has hit the Horn of Africa region, a World Food Programme official said Thursday.

Some 1,600 Somalis are arriving daily at refugee camps in southeast Ethiopia which are already home to more than 110,000 refugees.

"They all had the same story: it's hunger," said Judith Shuler, a WFP spokeswoman in Ethiopia.

Two large camps in the region are already overcrowded and a new one that was set up last week already houses 12,000 refugees.

"We do what we can, but people when they arrive are in very bad shape and have very high malnourishment," said Sabine Wahning, a UN refugee agency programme officer.

The severe drought has also forced thousands of other Somalis into Kenya, which hosts the world's largest refugee camp mainly inhabited by Somalis who have fled relentless conflict back home.

On Tuesday, Somalia's Al-Qaeda-inspired rebels, who expelled foreign aid groups in regions under their control two years ago, appealed for help to thousands of residents devastated by the drought.

The current drought has been described by aid groups as one of the worst in decades.

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A massive dust storm engulfed the southwestern US city of Phoenix late Tuesday, blotting out the sun and knocking down electricity poles, local media reported. The ABC 15 news outlet said the billowing cloud stretched 60 miles wide and packed winds of 60 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour). There were no immediate reports of casualties or of damage to homes or businesses. The US Nati ... read more

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