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Monday, 17 April, 2000, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Famine threat across the Horn
Nearly 16 million people in the Horn of Africa are threatened with starvation, according to the United Nations.

Over the past two years drought has scorched crops and killed livestock across the region.

And while drought is the primary cause of the food crisis, the UN says conflict and insecurity have exacerbated the situation.

Baby, photo courtesy of Rodney Rascona
Scores of children in Ethiopia have already died
The food shortages are most severe in Ethiopia, where more than eight million are at risk of famine.

The country is in the middle of a protracted war with neighbouring Eritrea, which is severely complicating relief efforts.

There is also instability in the south-east of the country, with frequent reports of banditry and rebel incursions from Somalia and Sudan. Some international aid agencies have pulled their workers out because of the danger.


Some 367,000 people are threatened by drought and food shortages in Eritrea.

Thousands of farmers in the grain-producing regions in the south have fled from the conflict zones, leaving crops unharvested. As a result there have been sharp rises in local food prices and livestock herds are being sold at falling prices.

The border war with Ethiopia has also burdened the country with an increasingly large population of refugees.

United Nations special envoy Catherine Bertini said in mid-April there was still time to avert widespread famine in Eritrea, if food could be moved in quickly.


Drought is affecting an estimated 100,000 people in this tiny country, which is highly dependent on imported food and foreign aid.

Water holes have reached dangerously low levels, and livestock are dying.

Many people are already leaving rural areas for the cities, in search of more food and water.


In northern Kenya nearly 2.7 million people are facing severe food shortages, making it the second most severely hit country after Ethiopia.

Turkana district, in the north-west, is the worst-affected area.


Crop failure and fighting between rival militias have left between 1.2 and 1.5 million people at risk in Somalia. Food stocks are being sent to the country in anticipation of a major emergency.

The worst affected areas are the Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions, where an estimated 730,000 people need assistance. Harvests are expected to fail for the sixth year in succession and there have been outbreaks of cholera.

In Waajid, in the south-west of the country, child malnutrition is estimated to be 25%, with hundreds of children needing food supplements. But there is such a shortage of food that it is usual for the special-high protein ration to be used by all the family.

Relief efforts have been hindered by looting and fighting, which led to the temporary suspension of food distribution in the Bakool region. The country has a reputation as a difficult and dangerous place for aid workers.


The UN estimates that 1.7m people in Sudan will need food aid this year, with 75,000 of them at immediate risk.

Sudan is plagued by civil war and has the world's largest population of internally displaced persons.

Aid workers have often been prevented from reaching at-risk groups due to fighting.


Drought and crop failure in north-east Uganda has caused severe food shortages for an estimated 220,000 people.

By December last year, the UN estimates that 30% of households in Moroto and Kotido had exhausted their food supplies.

Many families are surviving on one meal a day, and depending on cactus fruits, wild berries and leaves for food.

Further south

The UN Food and Agriculture organisation has warned that the food crisis could spread south to central Africa's great lakes region, where conflict, large population movements and erratic weather have created another food shortage.

The situation is particularly grave for nearly 800,000 people living in camps for displaced people in Burundi.

They are mainly Hutu peasant farmers, who are now unable to gather in their crops.

And in Tanzania, drought has affected an estimated 1m people.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"The UN say more than 12 million people face serious food crisis"
WFP Ethiopia director Judith Lewis
"Families are travelling for days to reach food centres"
See also:

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31 Mar 00 | Africa
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23 Jun 99 | Africa
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