GENEVA (Reuters) – As many as 11 million people are threatened with starvation across east Africa because of a combination of drought and conflict, a U.N. special investigator warned on Monday.
Urging donor countries to come immediately to their aid, Jean Ziegler, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said that pre-famine conditions were increasingly being reported throughout the region.
"Severe droughts coupled with the effects of past and present conflicts have led to acute shortages of water and food," he said in a statement.
"Approximately 11 million people are currently threatened by starvation in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania," he added.
Hundreds of people and tens of thousands of head of livestock are believed to have died from hunger and thirst since the drought began in late 2005.
The World Meteorological Organization, a U.N. agency, has warned that rain is unlikely before April.
Ziegler, who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission, said Tanzania and Kenya had the largest number at risk — 3.7 million and 3.5 million, respectively.
In Somalia, there were 2 million at risk, with 1.75 million in Ethiopia and 150,000 in Djibouti.
Under an international treaty on political and economic rights, member states were obliged to respond quickly and "in an appropriate manner" to emergency food situations.
"It (aid) is urgently needed to save the lives of thousands of people in these countries," he said.