Dutch aid group spotlights East Africa famine

12th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch umbrella association of aid organisations has highlighted the gravity of the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa and is appealing to the public to support the victims.

Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties SHO – an umbrella platform for several Dutch humanitarian organisations - has opened a traditional crisis bank account 555 to receive donations for the some ten million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia affected by the region’s worst drought in 60 years.

“Millions of people are suffering from famine, the worst in 60 years,” said SHO in a press statement. A spokesman said the average Dutchman is completely unaware of the problem: “We want to highlight this disaster.”

Crops fail, food prices soar Because of the drought, harvests have failed, cattle have died and food prices have soared. The aid organisations say the crisis will continue for the foreseeable future, as no rains are expected. “Extensive and on-going help is badly needed,” warns SHO.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia is particularly wretched. The country - wracked by 20 years of conflict - is worst affected by the drought and hundreds of people flee each day to neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya.

Overcrowded Dadaab United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has warned about the dangers of overcrowded camps. Dadaab in Kenya was built to house 90,000 people but could soon be holding 400,000, humanitarian workers say.

Local people, who are also badly affected by the drought, reportedly fear that a new influx of refugees could spell environmental disaster for the arid region. Aid needed in Somalia

The UNHCR is also urging aid agencies to start working in Somalia, as many people are too weakened by hunger to walk for weeks to seek help - some malnourished infants are already dying.

UN High Commissioner for refugees António Guterres visited the Kenyan refugee complex last Sunday. "I believe Somalia represents the worst humanitarian disaster in the world," he told journalists. "And that is why we need to do everything we can to make it possible to deliver massive humanitarian assistance inside Somalia."

Last week, the militant group al-Shabab, which controls many southern and central areas of Somalia, announced it would lift its ban on humanitarian agencies.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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