African Drought Raises Food Aid Need

Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture Mitiku Kassa announced today that the Ethiopian government needs $398.4 million in food relief to assist victims of one of the harshest droughts in decades, which a UN official is calling the worst humanitarian crisis of the moment. Over 4 million Ethiopians are in need of humanitarian assistance, which is a whopping 40 percent higher than was estimated in April. U.S. officials are concerned that the Ethiopian government has underestimated the severity of the situation.

The drought is centered where Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia meet. It's also had a particularly grueling effect on Somalia, where militia groups have expelled international aid groups, making it difficult if not impossible to distribute food to those in need. Tens of thousands of refugees from drought-stricken areas have descended on Kenya's Dabaab camp, where an estimated 380,000-plus are already housed.

Experts blame factors including climate change and rising food prices for the crisis. The World Food Program has estimated that 10 million people in the Horn of Africa need food aid immediately.

Update: As of July 20, the United Nations declared a famine in two parts of Southern Somalia. According to the UN, a famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates among children are greater than 30 percent, when more than two people out of every 10,000 die per day, and when people do not have access to food or other basic necessities.