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20 February 2006

The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Jean Ziegler, is deeply concerned by the current situation in the Horn of Africa. According to information received in January 2006, approximately 11 million people are currently threatened by starvation in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. Severe droughts coupled with the effects of past and ongoing conflicts have led to acute shortages of water and food, decimation of grazing lands and cereal production, and killing of large numbers of cattle affecting the pastoral and agro-pastoral sources of livelihood.

Up to 150,000 people in Djibouti, mainly pastoralists, are said to be threatened by the continuing drought which has degraded pastures and dried up water points. In Ethiopia, some 1.75 million people are being affected by failed rains and are in need of humanitarian assistance above and beyond the 5.5 million people already receiving food assistance in the country. In addition, 3.5 million Kenyans are reportedly running out of food because of failure of the rains, tripling the number of people in need of emergency assistance. In Somalia an estimated 2 million people are facing an acute food and livelihood crisis which is compounding an already difficult humanitarian situation in an area debilitated by violence, insecurity and displacement. In Tanzania 3.7 million people are at risk of food shortages due to failure of the short rains.

Pre-famine conditions are increasingly being reported throughout the region, including widespread human and livestock distress migration, deterioration of livestock body condition and cases of livestock deaths. This drought has reportedly taken a heavy toll on an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five especially vulnerable to threats posed by malnutrition and disease. Despite the measures taken by the Governments concerned and some donors’ contributions, a crisis is imminent.

The Special Rapporteur recalls that under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, States parties have the obligation to respond quickly and in an appropriate manner to emergency food situations on the territory of a State Member of the United Nations. The Special Rapporteur requests that Member States immediately honour their legal obligations and ensure the realization of the right to food of the suffering populations, in close collaboration with the authorities of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. It is urgently needed to save the lives of thousands of people in these countries. In addition the Special Rapporteur on the right to food calls on the Governments of these countries, in cooperation with the United Nations system, to address the problem of drought in a long-term perspective through adequate policies and programmes.

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