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Aid agencies launch appeal for East African drought

Leading UK humanitarian agencies are launching a joint appeal to help more than 10M people in East Africa parts of which are suffering their worst drought in over half a century.

Caught up in the crisis are thousands of families trekking for days across parched scrubland from Somalia to Kenya – including barefoot children with no food or water.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) announced yesterday that appeals will be broadcast on Friday by ITV/ITN, BBC, Sky, Channel 4 and Channel Five. Participants in the appeal include ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.

“Slowly but surely, these people have seen their lives fall apart – crops, livestock and now their homes have been taken by the drought,” said DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley. “They’ve been left with no alternative but to seek shelter and life-saving help elsewhere. We have a duty to help quickly before the situation spirals out of control.”

Large areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia are affected and the DEC appeal will also include South Sudan – set to become the world’s newest country on 9 July.

More than 1,300 people a day, the majority of them children, are arriving in the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya near the border with Somalia.

The Dadaab camp was already the world’s largest refugee camp with a population of 350,000 – larger than the city of Leicester.

“Of course these people need a long-term solution with investment and political will – but right now it’s about preventing a tragedy,” said Mr Gormley.

“Many of these are a forgotten people, caught in the midst of conflict in Somalia and an ever-worsening environmental crisis.”

Agencies will be working through local partners to access remote and difficult to reach areas across East Africa with food, water, therapeutic feeding for malnourished children and medical treatment.

Despite the enormous challenges of reaching those affected in Somalia in particular, DEC agencies and their partners are already helping hundreds of thousands of people - but their work is being severely hampered by a lack of funding, it said.

The UK has taken a lead among the world’s governments with a pledge of £38M to the World Food Programme of the UN, which will provide the food aid that many of the DEC’s members will be distributing. The UN’s own appeal is only 40% funded.

The DEC does not set fundraising targets for its appeals and its member agencies are continuing to pursue funding from a range of potential sources to bridge the shortfall in East Africa.

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