Calls for aid to help feed millions, as East Africa plunges into drought

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Millions may starve in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti in East Africa, because of extreme drought, combined with inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food, according to the analysis made by Amartya Sen, who was awarded the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998. War in parts of the region is an extra exacerbating factor.

The countries need immediate food, water, seeds and any other agricultural product, according to the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which reports that millions of people are on the brink of starvation due to the recent severe droughts that have been devastating the area.

"The whole area is affected," FAO representative Shukri Ahmed said. "The situation is deteriorating." Local newspaper reports gave an official death toll at 30 famine-related deaths, said Mr Ahmed.

Many had not expected that the area's dry season would be as severe as it has been, and did not anticipate the effects.

Others, such as Yves Engler, expect famines and massive starvation to continue in the region as long as the IMF continues to influence economic policies in the region. Yves Engler has claimed, consistently with Amartya Sen's analysis, that the IMF is responsible for worsening or actually creating famine in Malawi (2002), Ethiopia (2003) and Niger (2005).

The present drought has been said to be getting worse by the day, and the total figure for those who need food from the World Food Program could rise from today's 1.2 million, to exceed 2.5 million people, according to United Nations (UN) spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the organisation's New York headquarters.

The FAO had called for domestic food purchases in areas where harvests were expected to be favorable, coupled with food aid imports elsewhere, the UN's Mr Dujarric said.

Crops have failed, and local attempts at distributing supplies have been blamed on poor infrastructure and a lack of supplies. What makes the region's situation even more grave, is that the rainy season failed to aid in the production of much needed crops.

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Nearly one-fifth of the population of Djibouti were said to be facing food shortages and wide-spread starvation. Nearly $40 million is said to be needed to offset the famine. 64,000 tons of food are needed by the World Food Program, but only 16,700 were known to be available.

The World Food program was trying to assess the worst hit areas.

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