UNITED NATIONS, May 24 (Xinhua) - "Crisis atop crisis" threatens millions in the Horn of Africa, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at an event to raise 7 billion U.S. dollars for the region, held at the UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday.
Across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, more than 43 million people continue to suffer from one of the worst droughts in recent history.
Mass displacement, skyrocketing food prices, and most recently, the fighting in Sudan, have contributed to years of conflict and insecurity.
"We must act now to prevent crisis from turning into catastrophe," Guterres said. "Let us act together now -- with greater urgency and far greater support."
During recent visits to Kenya and Somalia, Guterres saw firsthand the devastating effects of the drought.
"In parts of northern Kenya, parched landscapes and perished livestock have driven families from their homes in search of water, food, and incomes," he said.
It was in the Somali city of Baidoa that he met communities suffering from drought and insecurity, as the battle against Al-Shabaab militants continues.
"I was deeply moved by their struggles. And I was inspired by their resilience, courage, and determination to rebuild their lives. But they cannot do it alone," he said.
The UN chief assured that "action will make all the difference." Last year, donors delivered life-saving assistance to 20 million people and helped avert a famine.
Humanitarian plans for the region are currently funded at less than 20 percent, he said.
This is unacceptable, he said, warning that without an immediate financial injection, "emergency operations will grind to a halt, and people will die."
Citing the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund, the top UN official said the drought in Somalia last year claimed 40,000 lives, and half were children under five.
Even though recent rains have brought some relief, vulnerable communities face another year of hardship.
"People in the Horn of Africa are paying an unconscionable price for a climate crisis they did nothing to cause," he said.
"We owe them solidarity. We owe them assistance. And we owe them a measure of hope for the future. This means immediate action to secure their survival. And it means sustained action to help communities across the Horn adapt and build resilience to climate change," he added.