Ethiopia drought: UK pledges £38m in food aid

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell says aid is needed to prevent a catastrophe

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The UK has pledged £38m ($61m) in food aid to drought-hit Ethiopia - enough to feed 1.3m people for three months.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the World Food Programme cash would also treat 329,000 malnourished children and mothers.

The African country faces its worst drought for a decade with an estimated 3.2m people in need of emergency aid.

The UN has called for international aid across the Horn of Africa where 10 million people are affected.

Some areas have suffered the worst drought in 60 years and the UN now classifies large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as in a crisis or an emergency.

Mr Mitchell warned that other countries across the world must give money if a full-scale disaster was to be avoided.

"Through no fault of its own, the Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought caused by the failed rains," he said.

"Britain is acting quickly and decisively in Ethiopia to stop this crisis becoming a catastrophe. We will provide vital food to help 1.3 million people through the next three months.

"This situation needs an international response and Britain is calling on the international community to provide fast, effective relief."

Oxfam welcomed the announcement and said the money could not come soon enough.

Humanitarian director Jane Cocking said: "There are already critical and life-threatening food shortages in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa region.

"Two successive poor rains have left millions of people struggling to get food as hundreds of thousands of livestock have died and crops have failed.

"Other donors now need to follow suit and increase funding before it is too late."

Save The Children's emergency adviser, Matt Wingate, said: "Money pledged by the UK government will mean that aid agencies can get life-saving help to hundreds of thousands more children and their families.

Map of drought in the Horn of Africa

"Our staff are receiving more and more malnourished children on the verge of starvation in our feeding centres across the region every day.

"We urgently need other rich countries and donors to follow the UK government's lead and give money now so we can stop children dying across the region."

And the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (Cafod) said thousands of people were migrating in search of food but with nowhere better to go.

Director of advocacy Neil Thorns said: "There is nothing on the horizon that will improve that picture, and every indication it will get much, much worse."

A market in Ethiopia Drought-hit Ethiopia is about to suffer its driest three months of the year

He said small contributions from members of the public can "literally be the difference between life and death over the coming weeks".

UN humanitarian affairs chief, Baroness Amos, urged the world's nations to channel aid to the Horn of Africa.

"In the drought-affected areas we now have 10 million people who are affected," she told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme.

"In Somalia the numbers have now gone up to 2.5 million people. So we are talking about an extremely serious situation.

"I think as a world community we have recognised that when people are in this kind of desperate emergency situation that you have to be neutral and you have to be impartial in the way that you help people."

Mr Mitchell urged the Ethiopian government to provide the latest estimates of those affected - particularly in the south - so that aid agencies could target their relief.

"For the response to be effective, we need the most up-to-date, accurate information on the level of need in Ethiopia," he said.

"The country has made great strides in many areas over the past 30 years and this emergency relief will help to ensure that these gains are not eroded."

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