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East Africa drought crisis still ‘huge’

The size of the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa remains massive, says a British politician.

Three months after famine was officially declared in Somalia, hundreds of people, mainly children, are still dying every day, said Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.

The drought and famine have forced thousands of people into refugee camps and left 12 million people in need of aid and 750,000 at risk of death in Somalia, according to the latest figures from the Famine Early Warning System FEWS.

Earlier this week it was revealed that British aid is feeding more than 2.4m people across the region and an appeal by the UK’s Disasters and Emergency Committee has raised £72m, but that is still not enough.

With the rainy season round the corner, people caught up in the crisis are now facing the risk of disease spreading across crowded refugee camps.

More than 400,000 children are still at risk of death, just in Somalia alone, Mr Mitchell notes.

British aid pouring into the region has been concentrated on keeping people healthy. About 1.3m people have been given jabs against measles, for instance, and 400,000 doses of anti-malarial drugs are heading for Somalia.

Although the rains look likely to bring with them yet more misery and death, they can also play a part in the region’s recovery from the disaster. Funds raised by British people have helped buy seeds for more than 200,000 people, which they will be able to plant and grow when the weather improves.

The biggest problem, however is still actually getting to people in need who are living inside the parts of Somalia worst affected by fighting. Famine was officially declared in the lawless country as far back as July. And because they can’t get aid if they stay put, the number of Somali refugees crossing into south-eastern Ethiopia is on the rise.

Announcing its appeal to help people hit by the crisis DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said earlier this week: "The incredibly generous support of the UK public for the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal has made the difference between life and death for many people in the region.

But, he warned that "the situation remains grave however particularly in those areas of Somalia where access for most aid agencies remains severely restricted.”

The appeal brought in the third highest amount in charity's 45-year history - only the Asian tsunami (£392m) and the Haiti earthquake (£107m) raised more.

Hayley attribution