British aid agencies launch East Africa drought appeal

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British aid agencies on Friday launched a joint fundraising appeal to help more than 10 million people in East Africa as parts of the region suffer their worst drought in 60 years.

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 July 9, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said.

The group, which represents 14 aid agencies including Oxfam, the British Red Cross and Save the Children, said appeals would be broadcast on Friday by all Britain's terrestrial television channels.

"Slowly but surely, these people have seen their lives fall apart -- crops, livestock and now their homes have been taken by the drought," DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said.

"We have a duty to help quickly before the situation spirals out of control."

DEC said more than 1,300 people a day, most of them children, are arriving in the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya after trekking across parched scrubland from Somalia.

The camp is already the world's largest refugee camp with a population of 350,000, DEC said.

"Of course these people need a long-term solution with investment and political will but right now it's about preventing a tragedy," Gormley said.

"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 with local partners to access remote areas across East Africa with food, water, treatments for malnourished children and medicine, the DEC said.

Britain took a lead among the worlds governments on Sunday with a pledge of £38 million ($61 million, 42 million euros) to the UN World Food Programme, which will provide the food aid that many of DEC's members will distribute.

© 2011 AFP

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