East Africa drought: DEC appeal raises £9m

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Media captionAppeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee

The UK charity appeal to help people affected by severe drought in the Horn of Africa has so far raised £9m.

A group of UK aid agencies launched the fund-raising appeal with a series of TV and radio broadcasts on Friday.

Thousands of families in desperate need of food and water have trekked for days from Somalia to the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya.

The drought is the worst in East Africa for 60 years. The UN described it as a "humanitarian emergency".

Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee, said the British public had been "remarkably generous, despite many having to tighten their belts".

But he added that vulnerable people were dying and millions were at risk.

"We need to act fast to prevent more lives being lost," he said.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal was first broadcast by the BBC on Friday.

Comedian Lenny Henry fronted the BBC TV appeal while broadcaster Kate Adie voiced a radio version. Within 24 hours the total raised passed the £6m mark.

The British public donated more than £1m to individual charities even before the DEC appeal was launched. Save the Children had received £560,000, Oxfam £277,000 and the Red Cross £150,000.

Thousands of destitute people were on the move into Kenya and Ethiopia, Mr Gormley said.

More than 1,400 people a day were arriving in the Dadaab camp, already thought to be the world's largest with a population of 350,000. A similar number are crossing into Ethiopia.

Many of those reaching the camps are severely malnourished children, some of whom have died soon after arriving.

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 UK has pledged £38m in food aid to drought-hit Ethiopia - enough to feed 1.3 million people for three months.

The DEC appeal will help people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan, which officially separated from the Republic of Sudan on Saturday.

Aid agencies, including the Kenyan Red Cross, the Somali Red Crescent and Action Aid, are being helped by local groups to access remote areas with food, water and medical treatment.

UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell welcomed the appeal launch.

He said he was lobbying other governments to "do their bit".

"This situation needs an international response and Britain is calling on the international community to provide the fast, effective relief that Ethiopia needs now in this difficult time," he said.

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