The Horn of Africa will remain in the grip of a drought until at least April.
Somalis are particularly at risk, the UN warns
The World Meteorological Organisation warning comes as aid agencies predict a humanitarian catastrophe in an area seeing the worst drought in a decade.
The United Nations estimates more than 11m people in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Tanzania and Burundi need food aid for the next six months.
If the rains fail again in April and there is no proper harvest later this year, NGOs fear a regional catastrophe.
Some areas have recorded their driest months in almost 50 years.
"The ongoing drought will continue to have strong negative impacts until at least April 2006," while eastern and southeastern Kenya could be affected for much of the year, said the WMO, a UN body.
Emergency relief distributions have begun to 500,000 in southern Somalia - one of the worst affected areas.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says the drought is making an already appalling humanitarian situation much worse there. It estimates that in some places more than 80% of cattle will die.
Somalia has had no functioning government for 15 years - it is riven by civil conflict and is estimated to have the highest number of weapons-wounded casualties in the whole of Africa.
Fight for water
Pascal Hunt, the ICRC's head of operations in Somalia, has called for immediate international action to address the problems.
"Somalis were used to sell the cattle in order to get cereals, so in some places they don't have the means to buy the food and in some places there is simply no food any more."
The ICRC says thousands of people are moving towards the Juba River in search of what little water is left.
In the parched villages, children trying to collect water from wells have been attacked by wild animals also desperate with thirst.
The ICRC has now launched an emergency relief operation in Somalia, delivering water and food and buying livestock for families who have lost their cattle.