The world's worst food crisis is devastating large areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia - 10 million people face extreme hunger.
Concern Worldwide Overseas Director Paul O'Brien warns that Somalia in particular is on the brink of an emergency that could become as bad as the 1991 famine.
"The region's worst drought in 60 years has been exacerbated by extreme spikes in fuel and food prices. A nightmare scenario is unfolding," said O'Brien. "People have no access to water or food. In southern Somalia, an alarming 30 percent of children are malnourished: double the emergency threshold and the highest malnutrition rate in the world."
USAID's Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) currently classifies parts of Kenya as well as central and southern Somalia in "Crisis Phase," one level away from famine.
Throughout East Africa, pastures are scorched, livestock are dying, and families are unable to meet their basic survival needs. "In many of these communities, when animals start dying, people will start dying," O'Brien stresses. Concern Worldwide has been working in East Africa for over 25 years, and is one of very few aid agencies with operations on the ground in Somalia.
Humanitarian operations in the Horn of Africa are less than 50 percent funded. According to the United Nations, localized starvation may be happening in areas lacking access to humanitarian assistance. "Families are walking for weeks to seek help. They are arriving to camps in Kenya and Mogadishu with nothing. By the time they get there, a combination of hunger and despair mean that many simply go to sleep and don't have the energy to wake up," says O'Brien.
Concern has launched an urgent appeal for support. "We are working at maximum capacity to save children's lives and reduce suffering," urged O'Brien. "The innocent victims of this crisis need immediate and coordinated action from the international donor community. East Africa has endured the tragedy of famine before we all bear responsibility if we do not prevent it from happening again."
Concern works in 25 of the world's poorest countries, reaching 9.5 million people directly through emergency response and long-term development programs in health, livelihoods, education, and HIV and AIDS.
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