USAID chief visits Horn of Africa amid severe regional hunger crisis

US aid workers are calling on countries in the Horn of Africa to speak out against the Russian government’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, which has held back grain exports needed to feed millions of hungry people in the region. Officials are also appealing to armed groups in Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan to allow free access of food in areas under their control.

Top US aid officials are on a three-day visit to East Africa, where nearly 20 million people are facing severe hunger and food insecurity exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the suspension of Ukrainian food exports.

In her first stop in the region, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, speaking in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said a concerted effort was needed to overcome the regional humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this week, Power announced $1.2 billion in new money for Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, and on Friday talked about how the money will be spent to address the food crisis in Kenya.

“It’s a huge amount and it speaks to the level of need here, but again we need other donors to step up as well,” Power said. “At the same time, we try to mobilize the resources we need to press for access to difficult areas, and no party to the conflict should block the safe passage of humanitarian aid.”

Kenya will receive about $255 million from the latest US contribution. About 4.1 million people are food insecure in Kenya, compared to 3.5 million in March this year.

Margaret Kobia, Kenya’s minister of public services and gender, said the government had been able to provide humanitarian aid in the country’s arid and semi-arid regions.

“The government has been providing cash transfers since September last year,” Kobia said. “We feel that even for those who are moving from one location to another, money transfer remains a mode that can reach them wherever they are as long as they have a phone.”

The Horn is experiencing a drought that is leaving millions on the brink of starvation.

Humanitarian agencies working in Ethiopia and Somalia are finding it difficult to access parts of both countries due to conflict, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to move to safer areas to access food, water and medicine.

The United Nations and Turkey have brokered an agreement to free up Ukrainian grain exports. But Power said African countries needed to put pressure on Russia to ensure the exports reached their intended destinations.

“It will be a challenging period for this region, even if the grain can be opened, but every voice on the continent and around the world should be shouting in unison with Vladimir Putin: ‘Drop the grain, drop the grain.’ Mr. Putin,” Power said. “This is a humanitarian disaster in the making, and anything any of us can do to mitigate it must be done.

Somalia gets 90 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and even those with money find it difficult to afford the food in the markets.

Aid agencies warn eight regions of Somalia are at risk of famine and more than 7 million people are affected by drought, which has wiped out pastures and livestock.

USAID chief visits Horn of Africa amid severe regional hunger crisis

Source link USAID chief visits Horn of Africa amid severe regional hunger crisis

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