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Famine survivors now face disease and flooding

With the rainy season round the corner will come the fresh threat of disease and flooding for people already struggling to fend off starvation in the Horn of Africa famine.

Vaccination schemes are now crucial to protect the most vulnerable people, especially children, urged Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell while visiting Uganda.

"What will kill people is not only starvation. When the rains come, water-borne disease will cut like a knife through the immune system of children," he told The Independent on Sunday.

Nearly 13 million people – about one million a month – are at risk of dying from starvation after the region’s worst drought in 60 years. Two million under five year-olds are malnourished and 500,000 seriously so, according to figures from the United Nations.

At the same time there is a £630,000 shortfall in the funding needed to save lives, in a crisis which is expected to last another 12 months.

"In Somalia it is an absolutely desperate situation, with horrific rates of malnutrition," said Mr Mitchell while visiting the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda at the weekend to see the progress of British aid being used to invest in long-term food security.

"The contrast between what is happening in Karamoja and Somalia is acute, and underlines absolutely the reasons why we are spending our development budget in such a careful way."

Britain has just upped the amount of aid it spends in Karamoja by about £5 per person  in an effort to help 445,000 people out of long-term poverty.

Looking at the results of British aid money, Mr Mitchell was also taken to a family planning clinic and a feeding centre. "I met Immaculate, a 16-year-old girl who had to leave school after her father died five months ago," he said. "But thanks to a programme Britain was supporting, she was able to get back into school. She wanted to be a teacher."

He said he was aware that some people in Britain are against the Government's promise to boost aid spending to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2013 when UK people themselves are struggling and highlighted the need to get value for money when spending money on aid.

"This is not only about the British aid programme but also the generosity of the British public," he said. "People up and down the country have given generously to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal."

Hayley attribution