ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Extreme drought deepens hunger in the Horn of Africa, which is also beset by conflict, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.
The WFP said in its latest regional situation update issued late Thursday that across the Horn of Africa, mainly Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, some 22 million people are currently facing a severe hunger crisis after four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
"Alarmingly, this figure is expected to increase, with a fifth poor rainy season forecast by the end of the year," the WFP further warned.
According to the WFP, disruptions to grain supplies and rising prices caused by the crisis in Ukraine have pushed more and more people to the brink -- in regions already reeling from skyrocketing costs resulting from the intersection of climate change, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We do not have the luxury of just focusing on what needs to be done today," the statement quoted Michael Dunford, WFP's regional director for eastern Africa, as saying.
"We also need to start preparing for the next shock -- whether that is the next drought, the next flood or the next crisis," Dunford added.
In Ethiopia, food prices are at an all-time high and have been since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WFP said.
Pastoralists in the southern and eastern lowlands of Ethiopia "have powerlessly watched another predator, drought, reduce their livestock to skin and bones," the UN agency said.
Some 3.9 million children are severely malnourished in Ethiopia alone, or roughly half of all those suffering from malnutrition across the Horn of Africa, figures from the WFP indicated.
"This is the worst drought, the driest it's ever been in 40 years. So, we are entering a whole new phase in climate change," Dunford said.
The WFP further indicated that the extreme food and water scarcity have killed around seven million livestock across the Horn of Africa, imperiling the livelihoods of pastoralists, who rely on them for food and income.
"The fragile ecosystems where they live, and the way of life these lands have sustained for generations, are gradually collapsing due to erratic climatic patterns," it warned.