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East Africa On The Brink Of Catastrophe Unless International Aid Arrives, DFID Says

Choking droughts in East Africa could result in a human catastrophe unless the world community is prepared to give immediate help, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has said.

The international development secretary's calls for help come as the UN's Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Baroness Amos, has told the Huffington Post that more must be done to avoid disaster.

The World Food Programme estimates that the drought in the Horn of Africa is the worst in over 50 years, and is affecting more than 10 million people. The UN Children's Fund has said that more than two million children are malnourished and need emergency medical help.

Speaking from North East Kenya on Saturday Mitchell announced a £52.25 million package of emergency aid for the victims of the drought.

The extra money comes after a charity appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee saw more than £13million in donations come in from members of the public in just seven days. The money is also in addition to a package of food aid worth £38million that was announced earlier this month.

Mitchell called on other nations to respond with generosity. Speaking to Sky News, he said:

"If we are to stop what is already a serious crisis turning into a disaster, and a catastrophe, then it will take everyone across the international situation to put their shoulders to the wheel."

The Department for International Development said the money would be used to help 500,000 people in Somalia, and would help to treat 70,000 children for malnutrition. The money will also provide drinking water and health care for 130,000 currently in the Dadaab camp in Kenya and 100,000 in the Dolo Ado camp in Ethiopa.

Mitchell denied that Britain should be cutting back on international aid due to financial problems at home, and said that the generosity of the people here had already made a difference:

"If you look at the quite extraordinary response to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal since it was launched just a few days ago, people across Britain have been generous to those in terrible distress in this part of the world", Mitchell told Sky News. "I think It makes you proud to be British to see the way Britain has responded, and the determination of all of us to try and do something about this."

Oxfam welcomed the UK government's extra package of aid, but said that other rich countries needed to be equally generous.

The charity said in a statement: "There is at least a £434 million black hole in the aid effort which needs to be filled to save lives and avoid a humanitarian crisis becoming full blown disaster."

More than 3,000 people are fleeing from Somalia to Ethiopia and Kenya ever day, the government says, many carrying starving children. It is feared that those left behind are in an even worse position.

Camps set up in Kenya and Ethiopia to deal with the influx of people are overflowing with people, and more money is needed to help them say alive.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Baroness Amos, who is the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, said that the camps are stretched but will stay focused on helping as many people as possible.

"The Dadaab camps are already dealing with four times more refugees than they were built to accommodate," Amos said. "We will continue to support all the new arrivals even though the facilities are already extremely crowded."

Amos said that while the region is fragile, there is a long-term plan in place to stop disasters happening in future -- if funding can be found to support it.

"We are dealing with a region that is very fragile. Poverty, conflict and insecurity, over-utilisation of the land, climate change, and rising food prices have all had an impact," she said.

"Longer-term measures that reduce the risk have been paying off, but population growth is a continual challenge to those gains. While responding to this current emergency, we also need to look at underlying causes. Humanitarian partners have therefore developed a Plan of Action for the Horn of Africa that aims to both build the resilience of vulnerable people and ensure enough aid in times of acute crisis. In the longer term, the Plan looks, for example, at developing sustainable agriculture systems. Clearly for the longer term, continued funding for development is required."

Amos said that countries in the region also had a part to play. She said:

"Affected countries themselves must also continue to play their part. Kenya is supporting 800,000 of its people in need and has dropped import duties on food. National responses need to increase, and governments can also support the relief operation by ensuring streamlined procedures are in place to facilitate the timely delivery of aid."