London: The British government on Sunday pledged GBP 38 million in food aid to Ethiopia after the United Nations warned many countries in the Horn of Africa were facing famine following the "worst drought in 60 years".
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the World Food Programme aid, equivalent to USD 61 million or EUR 42 million, could feed 1.3 million people for three months and would also help treat 329,000 malnourished children and mothers.
"Through no fault of its own, the Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought caused by the failed rains," Mitchell told the BBC.
"Britain is acting quickly and decisively in Ethiopia to stop this crisis becoming a catastrophe. We will provide vital food to help 1.3 million people through the next three months.”
"This situation needs an international response and Britain is calling on the international community to provide fast, effective relief," he added.
An unusually dry rainy season combined with rising food prices has led to severe food shortages in countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
Cattle and sheep are dying at higher rates than usual, reaching up to 60 percent of mortality in some areas.
"Over 10 million people are affected by the drought in one way or other," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"We believe that the drought situation in certain regions is the worst in 60 years," she added.
Food prices in some parts of Kenya were up to 80 percent higher than the five year average, while in Ethiopia, the consumer price index jumped about 41 percent.
Oxfam`s humanitarian director Jane Cocking backed the government`s action.
"The money cannot come soon enough," she said. "There are already critical and life-threatening food shortages in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa region.”
"Other donors now need to follow suit and increase funding before it is too late," urged the charity boss.