CORRECTED: Worst drought in 60 years hits 10 million in Horn of Africa

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Ten million people in the Horn of Africa have been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, with the situation deteriorating to the point of famine in some areas, the UN said Tuesday.

"Over 10 million people are affected by the drought in one way or other," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"We believe that the drought situation in certain regions is the worst in 60 years," she said.

"In some areas the situation is close to that of famine. We are at the emergency stage which precedes that of famine. But the situation can still evolve," she added.

A poor rainy season coupled with rising food prices have led to severe food shortages in countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

In certain areas in Kenya, grain prices are up to 80 percent higher than the five year average, while in Ethiopia, the consumer price index jumped about 41 percent.

As a result, malnutrition rates are also rising, the UN agency said.

In the worst affected areas, they are at more than twice that of the emergency threshold of 15 percent. Eleven districts in Kenya have also reported malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold.

Byrs called for donors to increase financing in order to scale up aid. At the moment, the Djibouti drought appeal has only received 30 percent of funds sought, while appeals for Somalia and Kenya are only about half funded.

"If we do not tackle the situation as soon as possible, it could become worse," said Byrs.

© 2011 AFP

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