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UNHCR chief urges more help for drought-hit Somalis
by Staff Writers
Addis Ababa (AFP) July 8, 2011

British aid agencies launch East Africa drought appeal
London (AFP) July 8, 2011 - British aid agencies on Friday launched a joint fundraising appeal to help more than 10 million people in East Africa as parts of the region suffer their worst drought in 60 years.

Large areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia are affected and the DEC appeal will also include South Sudan, set to become the world's newest country on July 9, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said.

The group, which represents 14 aid agencies including Oxfam, the British Red Cross and Save the Children, said appeals would be broadcast on Friday by all Britain's terrestrial television channels.

"Slowly but surely, these people have seen their lives fall apart -- crops, livestock and now their homes have been taken by the drought," DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said.

"We have a duty to help quickly before the situation spirals out of control."

DEC said more than 1,300 people a day, most of them children, are arriving in the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya after trekking across parched scrubland from Somalia.

The camp is already the world's largest refugee camp with a population of 350,000, DEC said.

"Of course these people need a long-term solution with investment and political will but right now it's about preventing a tragedy," Gormley said.

"Many of these are a forgotten people, caught in the midst of conflict in Somalia and an ever-worsening environmental crisis."

Agencies will be working with local partners to access remote areas across East Africa with food, water, treatments for malnourished children and medicine, the DEC said.

Britain took a lead among the worlds governments on Sunday with a pledge of 38 million ($61 million, 42 million euros) to the UN World Food Programme, which will provide the food aid that many of DEC's members will distribute.

UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres on Friday urged more international help for thousands of Somalis devastated by a harsh drought, calling their plight the worst humanitarian tragedy.

Thousands of Somalis have fled into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia in recent weeks and many have died of starvation while fleeing due to one of the region's worst drought in decades.

"My main objective is to appeal to the international community to engage more actively in support of the Somali population that is suffering so much," Guterres said after visiting a camp hosting Somalis who fled into in Ethiopia.

"I have no doubt that if there is a population that is today suffering the worst humanitarian tragedy it is the Somalian population."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in Geneva that many of the Somalis fleeing their country had died on the way, but could not give figures.

"Many people are dying en route from what we hear," she said.

Guterres said hunger and disease had claimed the lives of children as their families fled to seek relief in Ethiopia.

"I listened to mothers telling us that theyve lost their children on the way. Doctors said that they have no hope to rescue some of their patients because they are already condemned because they came too late to safety."

"Ive seen children dramatically impacted by malnourishment and disease. (It) is indeed something that breaks your heart," said Guterres.

Somalia has been the worst affected country in the drought-hit Horn of Africa region owing to the persistent violence since a civil war erupted there two decades ago.

About 1,700 Somalis are arriving daily in southeast Ethiopia, while in neighbouring Kenya about 1,400 each day reach the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camp, according to the UN refugee agency.

The European Union on Wednesday announced it would provide 5.67 million euros to help millions of people in the Horn of Africa affected by the drought.

The aid brought to almost 70 million euros the bloc's contribution to assistance for the millions of drought victims in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels who two years ago banned foreign aid groups in areas under their control appealed for help and pledged to allow aid through to the population in their fiefdoms.

"If that can happen it would be very much welcome," Guterres told reporters in Addis Ababa.

"If access can be granted and people can be supported wherever they are that of course is a very important thing."

Guterres was in Ethiopia to assess the effect of the drought. On Saturday he will visit Kenya.

The UN's World Food Programme said it now expected 10 million people in the region to need food aid, revising upwards its six million figure given on Tuesday.

"This is extremely worrying. This is across the whole Horn. This is also affecting ... Kenyans, Ethiopians, Somalis," said Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the UN food agency.

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UN calls for long-term solution to Ethiopia's drought crisis
Addis Ababa (AFP) July 9, 2011 - The UN's emergency relief coordinator on Saturday called for long-term solutions to curb the effects of a severe drought in Ethiopia.

"We need to plan for the long term to help people rebuild their communities when the situation improves," Valerie Amos told reporters in Addis Ababa.

She cited better access to water, health care and education as key after spending the day in Ethiopia's Somali region, one of the worst-affected areas of the country.

The UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator emphasized the need for improved security in drought-affected regions so relief agencies can reach vulnerable populations.

She met with Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to draw up a plan to ensure access to the country's most volatile areas. In June, two World Food Program workers were detained for over a month in Somali region, also known as Ogaden.

The UN emergency relief agency reports 3.2 million people in Ethiopia depend on food assistance.

The Horn of Africa is currently facing the most severe drought in 60 years, according to the UN, affecting more than 10 million people.

The relief agency will also attempt to provide emergency aid in Somalia after Shebab Islamists announced they would allow access to humanitarian agencies.

"(That) is something we have to test to see whether we will be able to deliver that urgently needed aid into Somalia itself," Amos said.

The drought in Ethiopia is not only affecting crops, but is forcing pastoralists from their communities in search of water.

"Everyone I met spoke of the lack of water and the impact it is having on their day-to-day lives. Their very way of life is at risk," Amos said.

The UN and other relief agencies are struggling to respond to the crisis in light of funding shortfalls and called on the international community for increased aid.

Ethiopia has received $234.4 million to address the crisis, only 77 percent of the amount required, according to the UN.

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Many dying en route while fleeing Somalia drought: UNHCR
Geneva (AFP) July 8, 2011
Many people are dying of hunger while fleeing serious drought in Somalia, the UN refugee agency said Friday, warning that aid efforts could be overwhelmed by large numbers of malnourished refugees. "Many people are dying en route from what we hear," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. She could not give details on the death toll, but sai ... read more

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