The Horn of Africa – Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia – faces a worsening food crisis affecting millions of people.

As the situation deteriorates, humanitarian organizations have increasingly sounded the alarm. One international aid leader referred to the situation as the 21st century’s “worst food crisis.”

Jane Cocking, humanitarian director for Oxfam, said: “Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival. People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months – we need funds to help us reach people with life-saving food and water.”

Oxfam is an international confederation of organizations seeking to address poverty and injustice.

Families in some areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia have lost 60 percent of their herds, said Oxfam.

Oxfam blogger Adan Kabelo wrote from Somalia: “There have been two seasons of no or inadequate rain – the last good rainfall was in April 2010 – so now there is hardly any water or pasture left. Food is scarce, and when it is available it is too expensive. Since January the price of local staples such as maize and sorghum has almost doubled.”

Noting that the conflict in Somalia makes the situation there worse, Kabelo wrote: “Malnutrition rates are rising, yet the only hospital in Dobley was bombed and destroyed during fighting a few months ago. There is no access by road to other parts of Somalia, so no food can be transported from areas where it is available. The only place people can move to safely is Kenya.”

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, said 9 million people needed humanitarian aid.

“The World Food Program is aiming to feed more than 6 million of the most vulnerable, but resources are thin and at the very moment that we should be ramping up operations, we have been scaling back some programs in Ethiopia and Somalia,” she said.

“A slowly evolving regional hunger crisis may not have the immediate impact of a mega-emergency like the Haitian earthquake, or Pakistan floods, but the drought and rising malnutrition in the Horn affects more people and its effects are equally devastating,” said Sheeran.

Citing the UN’s World Food Program, BBC News reported that 1,600 Somalis were arriving daily at a camp in southeastern Ethiopia and that 12 million people in that region needed food assistance.

Another BBC news story said that the Islamic militant group in Somalia, al-Shabab, had lifted its 2009 ban on foreign aid organizations. Earlier Al-Shabab had claimed that aid agencies were anti-Muslim.

Jeremy Konyndyk, staff member with Mercy Corps, asked in a column on Huffington Post, why the United States was doing “so little to respond.”

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