UN warns of rising number of people facing acute food insecurity in Eastern Africa

9 March 2017. Ngop: Women carry sacks of white maize back home after a food distribution in Ngop, Unity state, South Sudan. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) distributed food (maize, lentils, oil and corn soya blend) for more than 7,100 people in Ngop. While Leer and Mayendit, both also in Unity state, have been recently declared in famine, Ngop is also in high risk. The food distribution is part of a Rapid Response Mission coordinated and funded by the World Food Programme (WFP) to mitigate this risk. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - NRC

The number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity and severe water shortages in Eastern Africa could jump to 20 million, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.

FILE PIC: Village women receive aid from the charity organization, Oxfam International, at a distribution center in Chirumhanzi about 250 Kilometers Southeast of Harare. The United Nations says about half of Zimbabwe’s population faces severe hunger amid a devastating drought and economic collapse. /AP

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said already more than 15 million people are facing food crises across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

“Across the three countries, about 5.7 million children are acutely malnourished, while more than 3 million livestock – which pastoralist families rely on for sustenance and livelihoods – have died,” OCHA said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

The statement was released ahead of the two-day visit to Kenya by Martin Griffiths, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Griffiths, who is due in Nairobi on Thursday aims to draw international attention to this severe climate-induced humanitarian emergency and the need to scale up a robust response to save lives and livelihoods before it is too late, OCHA said.

It said communities in the Horn of Africa are experiencing one of the most severe droughts in their memory.

In Kenya alone, it said, some 3.5 million people are severely food insecure, and acute malnutrition rates in some areas are more than double the emergency threshold.

During his visit to Kenya, Griffiths will meet with representatives of the government, people on the front lines of the crisis, local authorities, and national and international humanitarian partners.