Oxfam warns of food crisis in east Africa

July 24th, 2008 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 24 (DPA) Britain’s leading charity Oxfam has warned that 13 million people in East Africa are at risk of hunger and destitution as food prices spiral out of control. A situation already marked by droughts, war and poverty was made worse by rising food prices which had increased by 350 percent in some regions between 2007 and 2008, Oxfam said in a report issued in London Thursday.

Oxfam joined calls on donors from other international aid groups to increase aid levels to Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Its call followed a warning from the UN World Food Programme which said that more than 14 million people in the Horn of Africa needed food aid because of drought and rising food and fuel prices.

Oxfam’s Rob McNeil, who has toured Somalia and the Afar region of Ethiopia, said the cost of food had escalated by up to 500 percent in some places and people were becoming desperate.

“I saw people in one village reduced to pounding the food pellets intended for their animals into porridge to feed their families. We fear that the worst could be yet to come as the crisis deteriorates across East Africa,” his report said.

In Somalia, the cost of imported rice increased by up to 350 percent between the beginning of 2007 and May 2008, while in areas of Ethiopia, the price of wheat had more than doubled over a six-month period.

According to Oxfam, 2.6 million people in Somalia - or 35 percent of the population - required emergency assistance, a need that could apply to half the country’s population by the end of this year.

In Ethiopia, the government estimated that 4.6 million people were in need of emergency food assistance, twice as many as at the beginning of the year.

In Turkana, northern Kenya, an Oxfam survey showed that 25 percent of children were suffering from acute malnutrition, the highest in the country.

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