Millions at risk as drought threatens the Horn of Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The children walk among carcasses of animals dying of starvation and exhaustion, a grim picture of the drought that threatens millions of people in the Horn of Africa.

Somalia, Kenya and now Ethiopia have sounded the alarm over the latest climate shock in a fragile region crisscrossed by herders and others trying to keep their animals and themselves alive.

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, people have seen the failures of what should have been three consecutive rainy seasons. Droughts come and go over the years, but resident Zaynab Wali told a United Nations children’s agency visit team that she and her seven children have never seen one like this.

The government distributed food and feed during the last drought five years ago, she said. This time “we don’t have enough food for our family.”

More than 6 million people in Ethiopia are expected to need urgent humanitarian assistance by mid-March, UNICEF said on Tuesday. And in neighboring Somalia, more than 7 million people are in urgent need of help, the Somali NGO consortium said in a separate statement, begging international donors to give much more.

This could be the worst drought in the region in 40 years, the consortium said.

“We are only one month into the long dry season and I have already lost 25 goats and sheep,” Hafsa Bedel in the Somali region of Ethiopia told UNICEF. “I also lost four camels. There is no pasture.” There is not enough food for her own family, including her six children, she said.

UNICEF estimates that more than 150,000 children in such areas of Ethiopia have dropped out of school to help collect scarce water and do other chores.

A boy propped up a donkey, once crucial to carrying cargo, that had grown too weak to walk alone.

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