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East Africa - Humanitarian Update

Volume 449: debated on Monday 11 September 2006

At the beginning of this year the UN judged that 8.2 million people in East Africa and the Horn were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, mainly food aid, following the worst drought for a decade. Since then approximately 490,000mt of food aid has been delivered to respond to these needs. Additional assistance has been provided in the form of emergency medical and nutritional relief, water and sanitation, shelter and other forms of relief. The UK has provided approximately £55 million or $103.9 million towards this. Overall the international donor community have provided over $660 million towards the relief effort.

The long rains in the early and mid part of 2006 have led to improvements in most areas. Unfortunately, most notably in Ethiopia, flooding has brought its own tragedy as over 600 people have died and more than 150,000 have lost their homes or been affected in one way or another. Most recently DFID has made available a further £6 million for humanitarian assistance in Kenya, where malnutrition rates remain high and current season harvest assessments present a very mixed picture. In Ethiopia we have provided £l million for urgent relief to flood-affected people.

Humanitarian assistance is still needed to address the urgent medical and nutritional needs of the most seriously sick and malnourished, and to meet other basic needs, including clean water, to the reduce risks of death and disease. Basic humanitarian indicators remain worrying, but we expect that the steps taken by relief agencies have mitigated what might have been more serious consequences, such as widespread mortality and displacement. We are closely monitoring the situation.

Assistance is also being provided in an effort to improve productive capacity by investing in livestock or other farming inputs such as seeds, tools and livestock vaccinations. However, it remains a challenge to achieve sustained benefits for the poorest and most vulnerable communities. In Ethiopia we are leading supporters of a productive safety nets programme to tackle chronic hunger; we are working on the development of a similar programme in Kenya. It is also important to note that substantial risks remain from conflict in the region, and we are working closely with the international community to promote peace and stability as a prerequisite to finding long term solutions to persistent humanitarian crises.