The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on nations to immediately ramp up funding to prevent a "catastrophe" in the Horn of Africa, which is suffering its worst drought in generations.
The United Nations says that more than 43 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya urgently need lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance.
"Without an immediate and major injection of funding, emergency operations will grind to a halt, and people will die," Guterres told a conference in New York, where world governments gathered to seek 7 billion U.S. dollars to help those in need across the region.
The secretary-general said only 20 percent of the UN's humanitarian response plan for the region was funded so far. The UN humanitarian agency OCHA has said that amounts to only 1.63 billion U.S. dollars pledged.
"This is unacceptable," Guterres told delegates.
"We must act now to prevent crisis from turning into catastrophe," he added, recalling that last year donor countries delivered vital help to 20 million people in the region and helped avert a famine.
Since late 2020, countries on the Horn of Africa among them Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan have been suffering the worst drought in 40 years.
Five failed rainy seasons have left millions of people in need, decimated crops and killed millions of heads of livestock.
More than 23.5 million people are enduring high levels of acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, according to the OCHA, the UN humanitarian agency,
In Somalia alone, which is also in the throes of an Islamist insurgency, the number of people displaced now stands at 3.8 million, with 6.7 million people struggling to find food, according to the UN and Norwegian Refugee Council.
More than half a million children are severely malnourished, they added.
Deaths from hunger are on the rise in Africa because of droughts worsened by climate change and conflict, UN officials and scientists say.