East Africa is facing its worst drought in years, U.K.-based Christian Aid reports. The countries that are in dire need of immediate food aid are Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Djibouti.
As the United Nations announced that 11 million people are at risk in East Africa, Christian Aid launched an emergency appeal for the region.
Dominic Nutt, Christian Aid’s emergencies specialist and first hand witness to the food crisis, reports seeing people begging for water by the side of the road and children walking for miles in search of something to drink. Because of the dire security situation in Somalia, very few accounts of the suffering there are reaching Britain, and the aid operation in Somalia is particularly dangerous.
"This is a crisis on the verge of becoming a catastrophe," he said. "There are dead cattle everywhere and people have sold everything they have to buy food. These are the last few weeks that many people are going to be able to survive without help."
Across the region Christian Aid offices have received reports of people dying of thirst, while up to 70 percent of livestock have been lost as the predominately pastoralist communities move their cattle in a desperate search for food and water. But the watering holes have dried up and food and animal fodder are scarce across the region.
Evidence now strongly suggests the region will continue to suffer drought caused largely by environmental degradation and climate change.
In Kenya, 3.5 million people are in need of urgent help. Christian Aid is funding water tankers that are providing 52,000 liters of water a day to vulnerable communities. Although drought may be the immediate cause, Christian Aid believes that it is poverty itself that leaves people vulnerable and without alternatives when a disaster strikes.
"The world has not appreciated in the last 60 days how serious this situation is... we are now in a crisis. We are in a life-saving mode," said Head of the UN World Food Program, James Morris.
He said unless a donation shortfall of $189 million was met soon, many deaths from malnutrition would inevitably follow.
U.N. stocks of maize and rice would only last to the end of next month and the stocks of beans and vegetable oil were far worse, Morris said.
The government of Kenya has declared the famine affecting numerous parts of the country a "national disaster" and has called for national and international efforts to raise much needed aid to provide food for about 3.5 million people, almost 10 percent of the population, over the next six months, according to Action by Churches Together (ACT) International.
After the immediate crisis, Christian Aid will support partners such as the Anglican Church of Kenya to help people recover from the effects of the drought by providing seeds and tools and repairing or rebuilding local irrigations pumps and engines.