, WASHINGTON, August 8, 2011 (AFP) – The United States will offer
and drought-hit East Africa, where millions of people are facing starvation and need immediate, lifesaving help.
The announcement will coincide with a visit to Kenya by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, which includes a tour of refugee camps and meetings with top government figures, a US official said on condition of anonymity.
The United Nations last month declared famine in two areas of southern Somalia, as the world slowly mobilized to help 12 million people battling hunger in the region’s worst drought in 60 years.
Tens of thousands of people have already died and parts of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti are also hit by drought.
Thousands of Somalis fleeing the famine have poured into Kenya and Ethiopia, compounding the problems faced by those two nations.
US officials said that Jill Biden’s trip, which began on Monday, was meant to underscore US commitment to helping deal with the crisis in East Africa in the immediate term and also to seek long-term solutions in the Horn of Africa.
“Dr Biden will visit the Dadaab Refugee Complex, which is receiving thousands of Somali refugees, to draw the world’s attention to the crisis and pledge US support for relief operations,” a White House statement said.
Biden is due to meet Kenya’s Minister of Agriculture Sally Kosgei and to highlight the US administration’s programs to address root causes of hunger and insecurity around the world.
The US announcement follows a call on Friday by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for urgent steps to address the crisis after famine struck three new areas of southern Somalia.
Around 12.4 million people in the region currently face acute food shortages and 3.2 million in Somalia need “immediate lifesaving assistance,” the UN said.
The FAO said that to reduce the short-term damage, seeds and planting tools should be provided ahead of the October planting season, while livestock health must be boosted with drugs and vaccines.