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Crisis in Horn of Africa persists, says UN envoy

Crisis in Horn of Africa persists, says UN relief envoy, urging more aid to region

Despite recent rains in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa, the “crisis is not over” in the region and millions still need international assistance, the top United Nations relief official responsible for Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti said today, calling also for the authorities in these countries to do more to deal with future droughts.

At a press conference in New York, Kjell Magne Bondevik, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, stressed how important it was for people not to forget what was happening in the Horn of Africa despite the various other global flashpoints, including Afghanistan and Darfur.

“My main message today to you is that the crisis at the Horn of Africa is not over; despite relief in some areas as the result of the recent rainy season, the overall humanitarian situation in the Horn continues to be of concern,” he said.

“We estimate about 8 million people at the Horn to be in need of humanitarian assistance, mainly of course food and water, and 15 million are at risk in the five countries covered by my mandate, which is Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti.”

He went on to say that in some districts of Kenya 30 per cent of the children are malnourished, highlighting also that the overall region has suffered droughts in four of the last six years.

“I want to state that it is so important that the international community is aware of the situation, that they will contribute more economically so we can run our programmes. We are in need of support, the crisis is not over, the rain is of course helping but it came too late and too little to avoid a crisis.”

He also pointed to a link between the immediate humanitarian relief on the one hand, and the medium and longer term development objects on the other. People of the region must be prepared to respond to new droughts “in a better way than they have done,” he said, adding that “of course the main responsibility are on the authorities of these countries themselves.”

Mr. Bondevik, a former Norwegian Prime Minister, was appointed to the UN post in February and last month wrapped up a trip to the five countries, during which he made several visits to the field to see first-hand the impact of the recurrent droughts. In early April the UN launched an appeal requesting $443 million in assistance for the region.

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