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13 million people face severe hunger in Horn of Africa, UN warns

Food supplies are distributed by the World Food Programme in Ethiopia (Claire Nevill/WFP via AP)

Drought conditions have left an estimated 13 million people facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

People in a region including Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya face the driest conditions recorded since 1981, the agency reported, as it called for immediate assistance to forestall a major humanitarian crisis.

Drought conditions are affecting rural communities across southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, south-eastern and northern Kenya, and south-central Somalia.

An Ethiopian woman sifts through distributed food supplies (Claire Nevill/WFP via AP)

Malnutrition rates are high in the region, the UN agency said.

The WFP said it needs 327 million US dollars (£241 million) to look after the urgent needs of 4.5 million people over the next six months and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks.

“Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated crops and caused abnormally high livestock deaths,” it said in a statement. “Shortages of water and pasture are forcing families from their homes and leading to increased conflict between communities.”

More forecasts of below-average rainfall threaten to worsen conditions in the coming months, it said.

A woman follows drought-affected livestock in Ethiopia (Michael Tewelde/WFP via AP)

Others have raised alarm over a fragile region that also faces sporadic armed violence.

The UN children’s agency said earlier in February that more than six million people in Ethiopia are expected to need urgent humanitarian aid by mid-March.

In neighbouring Somalia, more than seven million people need urgent help, according to the Somali NGO Consortium.

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