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Egeland asks G8 leaders to keep their vows

01.01.70

Berlin - The United Nations' top humanitarian official on Monday called on the G8 countries to step up funding to the Horn of Africa to prevent 11-million people in the drought-stricken region from starving to death.

"More than 20-million people are affected by the drought. Eleven million need immediate relief. They risk starving to death," UN Under-Secretary Jan Egeland told reporters on the sidelines of a three-day UN conference on climatic disasters.

"The G8 nations need to step up aid and deliver assistance even sooner than they have promised because the situation is urgent," he added.

Eleven million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti are at risk of starving to death because of food shortages triggered by severe drought, according to the United Nations.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said last week that famine was threatening five million people in his country alone.

The drought is the seventh to ravage East Africa since 1975.

Egeland said Africa had become the world's main humanitarian challenge and the constant emergence of fresh conflicts and climate disasters meant that donor funding was being swallowed up as fast as it materialised.

"Donors are continuing their assistance to Africa but the problem is that we are being outpaced by new problems."

Egeland said Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region was a case in point.

The UN has provided humanitarian help to three million people but they were threatened by the war that has been dragging on since 2003 and donors were now "moving away", he said.

"Africa is the main challenge of this generation. No other continent is having to fight the challenges that Africa faces," he said.

The UN's Third Conference on Early Warning is looking at ways of informing communities of impending disasters and how to deal with them. - Sapa-AFP

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