The drought began with the failure of the October to December short rains last year in eastern parts of the Horn of Africa, pushing an additional 1.4 million people into hunger. The number in need of assistance may increase further if the current long rains – from March to May – are poor.
I am very pleased that in areas of abundance in the region farmers are selling their produce to WFP so that it can be used to help the poorest in drought-stricken areas. In 2010, WFP bought food worth a total of US$139 million in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
The outlook for the rains in eastern parts of the Horn is worrying, especially combined with rising food and fuel prices and conflict. If the latest meteorological forecasts of below-normal long rains in the eastern Horn are correct, the crisis will worsen in those areas and more people will go hungry.
This is one of the reasons why I am currently in Nairobi on a fact-finding mission to consult with the experts.
Food prices have started rising in areas that rely on the short rains for most food production, with increases for maize of 25 percent to 120 percent in some remote parts of the Horn. Cereal prices in the region over the next six months are expected to increase by 40 to 50 percent.
Rising international food and fuel prices are compounding the pressure on the poorest, many of whom hadn’t yet recovered from the brutal 2007 to 2009 regional drought in the Horn.
WFP so far has 44 percent of the resources it needs to feed 5.22 million people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Karamoja region of eastern Uganda from April through September. The shortfall will hamper our efforts to provide food where it is needed most.