British aid consortium warns of Africa food and water crisis

By agency reporter
28 Apr 2011

Over eight million people are now facing severe food and water shortages after a life-threatening drought worsened in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, a consortium of leading British aid agencies hosted by Save the Children has warned.

The Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA) says a lack of seasonal rains has led to failed harvests, acute water and pasture shortages, and the deaths of thousands of animals in the region.

Thousands of people have already fled their homes in search of water and grass for their livestock.
In some areas of Somalia and northern Kenya, up to 30 per cent of the population is suffering from acute malnutrition, which is double the amount sufficient to declare a humanitarian emergency.

The CBHA has allocated over £500,000 to its member agencies to provide urgent support such as clean water, food, and protection for surviving livestock to those in the most immediate need but has warned that a lack of funding is continuing to hamper the response.

"The CBHA has urgently released this money to help those with the most critical needs survive the next month," said CBHA Director Sean Lowrie.

"But with the United Nations and humanitarian aid organisations already warning of a looming catastrophe in the Horn of Africa, the international aid sector needs more money to respond as quickly and effectively as possible.

"As a Consortium of 15 member agencies with long-standing involvement and detailed knowledge of the area, we are able to share our information and focus on the worst hit areas of the region," Lowrie said.

Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia form part of the Horn of Africa, a consistently drought-prone region still recovering from one of the worst droughts in recent history. Over 20 million people were facing life-threatening shortages of food and water in 2009 following successive years of failed rains.

Early warning systems mean humanitarian agencies have become increasingly efficient in spotting potential emergencies before they reach critical stages, but the CBHA has warned that the current drought has the potential to be as devastating as that of 2009 if appropriate action is not taken immediately.

"We know the lessons from previous disasters and we have a moral responsibility to act, but we are limited by this lack of funding at a critical time," declared Mr Lowrie.

Members of the CBHA include ActionAid, Action Against Hunger, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, HelpAge International, International Rescue Committee UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Merlin, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK.

[Ekk/3]

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