In Depth

East Africa hunger crisis: Mo Farah backs UK charity appeal

Olympian tells Britons to 'act now' and help millions facing starvation

Sir Mo Farah is fronting a new charity fundraising appeal for millions of people facing hunger in East Africa.

The Somali-born Olympian is urging his fellow Britons to "act now" by donating to the East Africa Food Crisis Appeal, launched yesterday by 13 UK aid agencies working together as the Disasters Emergency Committee.

The committee says that at least 16 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan urgently need food, water and medical treatment.

Father-of-four Farah says it "hurts" to see the plight of parents whose children are facing starvation.

"I was born in Somalia and it breaks my heart to hear stories of how families are suffering," says Farah, who's an ambassador for Save the Children.

The UK government will match pound for pound the first £5million donated by the public.

Which countries are affected?

A famine was declared in South Sudan last month, becoming the first UN-recognised famine in six years. Around 100,000 people in the war-torn country are already starving, but another 5.5 million – 40 per cent of the population – are in danger of joining them.

The alarm has also been raised in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia which have been hit by a severe drought.

Somalia's Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Haire, told the BBC that more than 100 people died from dehydration or hunger within 48 hours in one particularly hard-hit region.

The UN's humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, has warned that "without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death".

What has caused the food crisis?

In South Sudan, the famine is the result of man-made rather than natural factors.

Since 2013 the world's newest country has been riven by bloody civil war between its various ethnic groups.

The violence has brought food production and distribution to a standstill as farmers flee their homes and transport networks are destroyed.

"Villages are deserted," Nellie Kingston, an aid coordinator at Concern Worldwide, told NPR. "People are hiding in swamps to avoid the fighting."

Meanwhile the drought in South Sudan's neighbouring countries Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya has affected crop growth, livestock and access to drinking water.

Temperatures are rising in the Horn of Africa and weather patterns are increasingly unpredictable. Many blame this on global warming.

The Financial Times says that a "lack of effective government" and an insurgency by jihadi militia al-Shabaab "have not helped".

To make a donation visit Dec.org.uk.

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