by Njoroge Kaburo
NAIROBI, March 4 (Xinhua) -- The UN relief chief on Saturday urged international support for the estimated 2.7 million people in parts of Kenya who urgently need food and water following the onset of a severe drought.
Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement issued in Nairobi that the world must act now to save lives in Kenya and Horn of Africa region ravaged by severe drought.
"Famine has reared its ugly head in neighbouring South Sudan, Somalia is at risk for the second time this decade, and more than 2.7 million Kenyans are severely food insecure," warned O'Brien.
"Crops are failing, food prices are rising, and families are going hungry. The spectre of hunger and disease is haunting East Africa again. We need to put a stop to this," he added.
O'Brien who visited one of the driest areas in northern Kenya on Friday said he saw the devastating impact of drought on rural communities and called for international support for communities affected by conflict and drought in Kenya and the Horn of Africa.
The third consecutive year of drought in the Horn of Africa is causing thirst and hunger, decimating livestock, destroying livelihoods, spreading disease and triggering large-scale population movements.
Some of the worst-affected communities live along the Mandera triangle, where the borders of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia meet in a region that witnessed outbreaks of chikungunya, dengue, AWD/cholera and measles in 2016.
Half of Kenya's 47 counties are affected by drought and the government has declared a national drought emergency.
The food insecure population has more than doubled in less than a year, and an estimated 350,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers are acutely malnourished.
Kenya has pledged 99 million U.S. dollars to support national drought response efforts and committed to enhancing regional cooperation.
But the scale of the crisis is outpacing existing capacity. According to the United Nations, more than 2 billion dollars is required for humanitarian assistance in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia in 2017.