Somalis seek refuge from drought in Ethiopia

Extended drought is causing a severe food crisis in the Horn of Africa, which includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Weather conditions over the Pacific means the rains have failed for two seasons and are unlikely to return until October.
An estimated 12 million people in the region are affected by the drought. The UN has declared a famine in six areas of southern Somalia, where it says 750,000 people could die in the coming months in the absence of adequate response.
The humanitarian problem is made worse by conflicts. Militants had lifted a ban on aid agencies operating in parts of southern Somalia, but have since accused Western groups of exaggerating the scale of the crisis and again limited access.
Since the beginning of 2011, around 15,000 Somalis each month have fled into refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia looking for food and water. The refugee camp at Dadaab, in Kenya, has been overwhelmed by more than 420,000 people.
Farmers unable to meet their basic food costs are abandoning their herds. High cereal and fuel prices had already forced them to sell many animals before the drought and their smaller herds are now unprofitable or dying.
The refugee problem may have been preventable. However, violent conflict in the region has deterred international investment in long-term development programmes, which could have reduced the effects of the drought.
Development aid would focus on reducing deforestation, topsoil erosion and overgrazing and improving water conservation. New roads and infrastructure for markets would help farmers increase their profits.
The result of climate conditions, conflict and lack of investment is that millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are currently existing on food rations in what is said to be East Africa's worst drought for 60 years.
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The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says more than 110,000 Somalis have arrived at the remote camps at Dolo Ado in south-eastern Ethiopia.

The camps are already severely overcrowded, but another 1,600 people are arriving every day.

They are weak with hunger, having walked for days with malnourished children to cross from Somalia.

But the WFP's Judith Schuler says many are too weak or too poor to make the journey.

Some 12 million people need food aid after rains failed for the second year running across the Horn of Africa.

Getting food to the camps around the Dolo Ado in the remote south-eastern region of Ethiopia involves a long and dangerous journey.

Some 50 trucks a month make the trip, which requires bringing food from Djibouti to the Ethiopian town of Nazareth, and then down to the camps, close to the Kenyan border.

Making the 10-day journey is not without danger.

In May, vehicles were attacked by rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a rebel group fighting for greater rights for the ethnic Somali region of eastern Ethiopia.

One person was killed, another injured and two taken captive. They have only just been released.

But says the WFP, the drivers are determined to continue making the hazardous journey.

Left to die

Many Somalis have walked for days to get to the camps.

"One other woman told me, and that's what really marked me, is 'look we have arrived here and we are the lucky ones because there are many that couldn't afford the trip and basically had to stay behind'," Ms Schuler told the BBC.

So what fate faces those Somalis who are unable to make the journey?

"I think many of them will probably fight for their survival with the last means they have," Ms Schuler said.

Are many of those left behind likely to die?

"Yes, that's what the people who are arriving told me," Ms Schuler replied.

Map of drought in the Horn of Africa

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