GENEVA, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Two United Nations agencies warned Tuesday of the impending danger of a rapid increase in hunger and malnutrition in East Africa and the Horn, particularly Somalia, if the rain season falls short or fails.
World Food Program (WFP) Geneva spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said at a UN briefing here: "The WFP is highly concerned about a possible rapid increase in hunger and malnutrition in East Africa and the Horn should the current long rains perform poorly or, worse still, fail."
He said that with dry conditions since October and rainfall deficits in April and May, WFP estimates the number of food insecure people needing humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti could reach between 14 to 17 million through August.
"The main impact of the late start of the rains and the projected rainfall deficit is that the area planted in 2019 will be reduced, farmers and traders will hold onto stocks of food; prices will rise because of limited supply and dry conditions will increase the need for relief food," said Verhoosel.
At the same briefing, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Babar Baloch noted that ahead of World Environment Day on Wednesday, UNHCR was calling for urgent additional support to help drought-displaced people affected in Somalia.
He said below-average rains during the April-June period and the October-December 2018 period have caused worsening drought in many parts of the country.
An estimated 5.4 million people in Somalia are likely to be food insecure by July.
"Three main regions of Somalia -- South Central, Puntland, and Somaliland -- have been affected, despite marginal to average rains and flash flooding in some regions," said Baloch.
The UNHCR spokesperson said: "The latest drought comes just as the country was starting to recover from a drought in 2016 to 2017 that led to the displacement inside Somalia of over a million people. Many remain in a protracted state of displacement."
UNHCR said it fears that severe climatic conditions combined with armed conflict and protracted displacement could push the country into a far more significant humanitarian emergency.