About 22.9 million people in Horn of Africa region are in need of humanitarian assistance amid a looming famine in some countries, the UN warned in a report released on Tuesday.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report for January-March that the short rains season in East Africa (October to December) largely failed with levels of rainfall largely comparable to those of 2010, resulting in reduced river flow levels, water scarcity for human and livestock consumption and widespread crop failures.

According to OCHA, drought in the Horn of Africa is expected to intensify in the coming months, with a delayed start to the rainy season and depressed levels of precipitation forecast for March-May in most of the Horn.

The report said the number of food insecure people in Uganda has quadrupled and doubled in Kenya and Somalia, warning that the humanitarian situation in Somalia has deteriorated rapidly, where famine could soon be a reality in some of the worst drought-affected areas.

The report said severe drought, rising prices, continued insecurity and access limitations, and depressed rain forecasts suggest famine is possible again in Somalia.

“The food insecure population (in Somalia) increased from 5 million in September 2016 to over 6.2 million in February. This includes a drastic increase in the number of people in “crisis” and “emergency” from 1.1 million six months ago to nearly 3 million projected for February to June,” it said.

The UN said humanitarian space continued to be constrained across the region due to insecurity, bureaucratic impediments and financial limitations.

food aidIt says the volatile and insecure operational environment in South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and eastern DRC made it especially difficult and costly to respond to growing needs.

Meanwhile, the UN says conflict has been the major cause of displacement across borders and a threat to peoples’ security.

“There are 4 million refugees and asylum seekers in the region, and most of the newly displaced come from South Sudan. More people have fled South Sudan since July 2016 than Syria in the whole of 2016,” the UN said.

The report warns there is a risk of a further escalation of violence in South Sudan. In Somalia, the increased fragmentation of armed groups and the pull-out of foreign troops are worrying developments.

“Al-Shabaab attacks are on rise in Somalia and in Kenya’s northeastern border area. In Kenya, tensions and localized conflicts are set to rise ahead of national elections scheduled for August,” the UN said.

It also warns that inter-communal violence is expected to increase in drought-affected areas as pastoralists journey with their animals looking for increasingly limited water and pasture resources.

The report says communicable diseases will likely spread across the region due to increased population flows and the gathering of displaced populations into overcrowded settlements characterized by poor sanitation and the shortage of potable water. Enditem

Source: Njoroge Kaburo, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh