Horn of Africa and Ethiopia get multi-million disaster relief fund from the UK

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Douglas Alexander, the UK’s International Development Secretary, last Wednesday issued a strong warning concerning the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Horn of Africa region and announced a 39 million pound fund to help prevent a humanitarian disaster.

Reports indicate that the area already faces chronic food shortages which, without an adequate international response, could lead to a humanitarian crisis.

In response to the already escalating crisis, UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has announced 39 million pounds more in humanitarian assistance for the Horn of Africa to help the affected countries cope with the disaster.

Of the total allocation, 30 million pounds will go to Ethiopia which faces an acute food shortage. According to DFID, around 14 million people, one in six, struggle to feed themselves. The DFID assistance is the second of such funds. Ethiopia has already received 24 million pounds in emergency support in 2009.

An extra 9 million pounds is being provided to help people in Kenya and Somalia. In Kenya, 5 million pounds will go to UNICEF and other organizations to help those who need it most, especially acutely malnourished children. In Somalia, 4 million pounds will also go towards helping the most vulnerable.

A number of factors, over the past two years, have contributed to the acute shortage of food in Ethiopia. These include an unpredictable global food price inflation and the repeated failure of rains which are essential for agricultural production. Meanwhile, experts have warned that if the forthcoming harvest fails, it will lead to a worsening humanitarian situation into 2010.

“The UK is announcing £30 million now to help provide emergency humanitarian support to over six million people in Ethiopia until the end of the 2009 and to help pre-proposition food and nutritional supplies for 2010,” a statement from the British Embassy notes.

“Another seven and a half million Ethiopians are already receiving help through the Productive Safety Net Program, which provides food and cash payments in exchange for work, and aims to provide a more sustainable solution to food insecurity and hunger in Ethiopia,” it explained.

Estimates of the number of people in Ethiopia who need emergency food aid have risen steadily from 4.9 million in January 2009 to over six million now. About a third of those in need of assistance live in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Other areas affected include Tigray, Oromiya, Amhara as well as the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples region.

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