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'Wake up' to crisis, says Mitchell

Too many countries have failed to wake up to the scale of the drought crisis in east Africa, the International Development Secretary has said.

Andrew Mitchell called on the international community to help famine victims by donating to a vital United Nations appeal which is 60% under-funded.

He made his rallying call as planes and trucks carrying British aid arrived in the most hard hit regions of the Horn of Africa.

Some 12 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the newly formed Republic of South Sudan are in urgent need of food, water and emergency healthcare.

The drought has devastated cattle and crops and famine has been declared in two regions of Somalia, with other areas expected to follow. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) announced that the British public had donated £42 million in just over three weeks.

Mr Mitchell said: "British aid is getting through to thousands of families as we speak and that help will save lives. Britain is helping to feed 200,000 people in Somalia and we will help more than two million people across the Horn of Africa.

"The swift action Britain has taken and the unparalleled generosity of the general public through the DEC appeal has ensured we are getting supplies to people in the hardest-to-reach places.

"But too many countries have failed to wake up to the scale of the situation and the response that is needed. It is time for people to step up their response or risk failing thousands of men, women and children who are in need of our help."

Aid flights carrying British-backed aid have arrived in Somalia's Mogadishu and Baidoa airports, and lorry convoys have reached Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and the Dolo Ado camp in Ethiopia.

Thousands of people in Kenyan refugee camps have now received crucial basic supplies such as tents and cooking equipment, as well as medical equipment and safe drinking water. Mr Mitchell said the UN appeal for 2.4 billion US dollars had so far only raised one billion dollars.

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