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At least 22 million to be food insecure in East Africa over El-Nino: UN

NAIROBI, (Xinhua)– About 22 million people across the Eastern Africa region will require food assistance due to El-Nino-related heavy rains which have been pounding several parts of the region since June 2015, the UN said on Wednesday.

The UN Office of Coordination and Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Eastern Africa said there is also an increased risk for water and sector-borne diseases due to a combination of water shortages, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, high malnutrition levels and population displacement.

The UN humanitarian agency said the resurgence of Rift Valley Fever, which spreads very fast during rainy seasons in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania, is a particular concern.

“Due to El Niño conditions, 22 million people are expected to be food insecure across Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and South Sudan,” OCHA said in its latest report for January released in Nairobi.

According to OCHA, Somalia, Kenya and the southern parts of Ethiopia are expected to see above-average rainfall, while South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and North-Eastern Ethiopia are expected to see drier than normal conditions or even drought.

In Ethiopia alone, 10.2 million people require emergency food assistance and numbers are expected to rise to 18 million by the end of the year.

The report said most areas of Kenya received above-average short rains, driven in part by the ongoing El Nino. It noted that localized flooding and mudslides/landslides were reported.

Although less extensive than previously expected, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) reported the heavy rains resulted in a cumulative loss of 130 lives and 73 recorded injuries, with 40, 121 households (about 240,120 people) affected.

The UN humanitarian agency said El-Nino continues to aggravate drought conditions, and impact on food security and health in Somalia.

“The effects of drought in northwestern Somalia could extend several months into 2016 where about 380,000 people are already facing severe water shortages,” OCHA said.

The reports said some 2.3 million people, more than two-thirds being internally displaced, are in food-stressed situations and the number of people in severe food insecurity may increase by over 400,000.

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