25 Jul 2011

UN calls emergency drought meeting

The UN’s food agency is set to hold emergency talks in Rome to urge donor countries for an extra $1.6bn in aid, amid the worst drought in east Africa for 60 years.

Somali drought crisis (Reuters)

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) will meet with ministers of its member countries to discuss how to alleviate conditions that are threatening over 11 million people during east Africa’s worst drought in 60 years.

The one-day meeting was called by France, the current head of the G20 countries.

“This is an emergency ministerial meeting that is prompted by the escalation of the famine,” said Cristina Amaral, head of emergency operations in Africa for the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.

“We’re afraid that things will get worse in the coming months if nothing is done now,” she added.

Last week, the United Nations declared a famine in southern Somalia’s Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, and said nearly half of Somalia’s population needs urgent aid.

The World Health Organization said five more regions in southern Somalia are on the brink of famine.

It is estimated tens of thousands of people have already died in Somalia, and tens of thousands more are at risk in the coming weeks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the international community to donate $1.6bn (1.1bn euros) to stem the famine.

“So far, international donors have given half that amount,” Ban wrote in an editorial published in the Los Angeles Times.

“To turn the tide, to offer hope in the name of our common humanity, we must mobilise worldwide.”

The International Red Cross reported on Sunday that it had managed to distribute 400 tons of supplies to around 4,000 families or 24,000 people.

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