ROME: (AFP) – A worsening food crisis affecting more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa is unacceptable and should make the world feel ashamed, the head of the UN food agency said on Thursday.
“It is unacceptable for more than 12 million people to be at risk of starvation today,” Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said at the start of a conference on the drought crisis in Rome.
“The required funding is lacking. If governments and their donor partners do not invest now, the appalling famine we are now struggling to redress will return to shame the international community yet again,” he said.
Diouf called for immediate food aid to help the worst-affected in the region but also for longer-term assistance to livestock farmers and to crop producers to help strengthen their defences against the impact of climate change.
“Although aid is slowly flowing to affected areas and short-term needs are gradually being met, we must start now to help people build a future,” he said.
Drought “is not new to the region but is most likely to increase in intensity, severity and frequency in the coming years owing to climate change,” he added.
UN representatives and government officials were meeting in Rome after the United Nations said this month that only half of the funds required to deal with a crisis that has hit Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
At an emergency meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation vowed to donate 350 million dollars for famine relief in Somalia. More pledges are expected at a donor conference in Ethiopia next week.
The United Nations has officially declared famine in parts of Somalia for the first time this century, including in Mogadishu and four southern regions.
It is the worst crisis in Somalia since 1991-1992, according to the UN.