Drought conditions have left an estimated 13 million people facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa, according to the United Nations World Food Program.
People in a region including Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya face the driest conditions recorded since 1981, the agency reported on Tuesday, calling for immediate assistance to forestall a major humanitarian crisis.
Drought conditions are affecting pastoral and farming communities across southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, south-eastern and northern Kenya, and south-central Somalia.
Malnutrition rates are high in the region.
WFP said it needs $US327 million to look after the urgent needs of 4.5 million people over the next six months and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks.
“Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated crops and caused abnormally high livestock deaths,” it said in a statement.
“Shortages of water and pasture are forcing families from their homes and leading to increased conflict between communities.”
More forecasts of below-average rainfall threaten to worsen conditions in the coming months, it said.
Others have raised alarm over a fragile region that also faces sporadic armed violence.
The UN children’s agency said earlier in February that more than 6 million people in Ethiopia are expected to need urgent humanitarian aid by mid-March.
In neighbouring Somalia, more than 7 million people need urgent help, according to the Somali NGO Consortium.