Whilst it is primarily a severe drought which has led to the situation whereby 23 million people in seven countries - Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, Sudan, Djibouti and Tanzania - find their lives and livelihoods at risk there are other factors too.
As David Loyn, international development correspondent for the BBC
, reports the region is beset by conflict, has a growing population and is suffering from the effects of climate change. The Press Association
cites the rising cost of food and water, prices have reportedly trebled, as yet another factor.
Oxfam, which was founded in England in 1942 and takes its name from the Ox
ford Committee for Fam
ine Relief, became Oxfam International
in 1995 and is now a confederation of what its website
calls "13 like-minded organizations". The U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Hong Kong are among the countries in which those organizations are based.
And now, as Kenya suffers from its worst drought in ten years, the Turkana region in the north of the country is the worst affected, Somalia witnesses what is said to be its worst humanitarian crisis since 1991, and the populations in Ethiopia and Uganda become particularly vulnerable too, Oxfam has launched an appeal to raise £9.5 million ($15 million) for emergency relief.
The current crisis affecting East Africa is said to be threatening the lives of twice as many people as was the case in 2006, the year of the last such crisis. Although Ethiopian officials, half of the 23 million at risk live in Ethiopia, are apparently claiming that fewer people in the country will need food aid this year than needed it during 2008 and, says the BBC
, they are confident that they have done everything they possibly can to feed the country's population.
However, with livestock dying, the return of cholera to certain areas and the fact that there has not been a good harvest in East Africa in four years the likelihood of governments in the region dealing with the crisis without the help of the international community would not appear to be very high.
According to Oxfam children are falling ill in large numbers, one mother told the Press Association
that her five children had diarrhea because their drinking water was contaminated, and the elderly too are being hard-hit as they are usually the last to receive food and water.
But the arrival of rains is unlikely to end the misery now being suffered by many millions of people. The effect of El Nino
could turn those rains in to floods, leading to deaths from drowning, exposure and yet more starvation.
The reason why Oxfam has launched its appeal has perhaps best been summed up by Ezekiel Najalimo Dida, a field supervisor at the aid agency's headquarters in Lodwar in Northwest Kenya. He said:
Normally we'd get two rainy season a year; the long rains between April and May and the short season between September and October. Everybody relies on the rains not just for drinking water but to irrigate the land, provide pasture for the livestock, refill the water pans, lakes and rivers and to help the trees bear fruit. But the rains have failed now for five successive seasons