By Chrispinus Omar
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN humanitarian
agency said Friday at least 26.5 million people in East Africa are
in need of food assistance due to severe drought that is ravaging
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report the number of refugees who
have sought protection in the Horn of Africa region has increased by
640,000 people to 4.4 million over the past six months.
OCHA said in its regional outlook for the Horn of Africa and
Great Lakes region that an additional three million people were
internally displaced during the past eight months.
"This is driven by successive episodes of drought and failed
harvests, conflict, insecurity and economic shocks affecting the
"Humanitarian needs are expected to increase in the months
ahead," said the report.
The East Africa region has been facing one of the biggest
humanitarian crises in its history.
Recent rainfall has been insufficient to compensate for the
delayed start of the rainy season, which brought below average
levels of precipitation in March and April.
The current drought in the Horn is largely comparable to that of
October to November 2010 that peaked in 2011 with grave humanitarian
Extensive growing season failures and record low vegetation are
observed across Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia and coastal Kenya.
According to the UN, northern and western Kenya, southwestern
Ethiopia and eastern Uganda are also affected, although with more
Extensive livestock deaths have been reported.
April field reports from Somalia indicate that, due to distress
selling and livestock deaths, households in northern and central
areas have lost 40 to 60 per cent of their livestock and households
in southern regions 20 to 40 percent of their herds, since the Deyr
The number of people in Integrated Phase Classification Crisis (IPC)
phase 3, 4 and 5 has increased significantly to 26.5 million, a 62
percent increase compared to a year ago (16.4 million in May 2016).
In South Sudan, a famine affecting 90,000 people in Unity State
was declared in February.
Conditions in South Sudan continue to deteriorate with 5.5
million people expected to be severely food insecure in July, the
peak of the lean season.
The report said the situation in Somalia has deteriorated and is
of particular concern with 3.2 million people facing Crisis and
Emergency levels of food insecurity (up from 2.9 million) and severe
drought, rising prices, continued access limitations, and depressed
rain forecasts suggest an elevated risk of famine in Somalia in
The food insecure population in Ethiopia has increased from 5.6
to 7.8 million following a poor start to the rainy season, the UN
"This number is expected to increase further for the second half
of the year.
"In Burundi, 2.6 million people are food insecure, including
700,000 in IPC Emergency Phase 4 and in Kenya 2.6 million are
acutely food insecure," it said.
The agency warns that food insecurity is set to worsen due to
continued conflict, a possible El-Nino and the Fall Armyworm
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the
probability of El-Nino occurring in the autumn is at 50 to 60
percent and is expected to affect Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Somalia,
western Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and southwestern South Sudan.
"The Fall Armyworm has appeared in western Kenya, southwestern
Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and central and western Uganda. In Uganda,
it affects 54 districts, attacking up to 40 percent of maize farms
in some areas," the UN said.
According to OCHA, acute malnutrition, especially among refugees
and children under five, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers remains
a major concern in many parts of South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur,
Kordofan region, and Eastern Sudan), northern Kenya and Uganda’s
Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in South Sudan are above
the 15 percent emergency threshold in seven of the ten states,
reaching 33 percent in northern Bahr el-Ghazal.
Meanwhile, the report said 640,000 people have sought protection
since the start of 2017, making a total of 4.4 million refugees and
asylum seekers in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region.
The majority of the newly displaced are from South Sudan and
Burundi, with South Sudan being the fastest growing refugee crisis
Almost 2 million people are internally displaced in South Sudan,
and more than 1.9 million South Sudanese have fled the country as
refugees and asylum seekers since December 2013.
"This has led to a revision of the South Sudan Regional Refugee
Response Plan (RRRP). Humanitarian partners anticipate 2.13 million
South Sudanese refugees by the end of 2017," said the UN agency.
The report said nearly 65,000 Burundians have sought refuge since
the start of the year bringing the total number of new refugees to