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Charity warns of new hunger crisis

East Africa is facing a "double-dip" hunger crisis that could plunge millions of people back into emergency levels of hunger and malnutrition, Save the Children has warned.

Early warning systems and the aid agency's own analysis suggest that unless immediate preventative action is taken, any improvements in the situation following last year's catastrophic food crisis could be wiped out by poor rains, crop shortages and difficulties in reaching conflict-affected areas.

Farmland and livestock across East Africa was devastated by the 2011 crisis, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, but a huge relief effort, though late, followed by good rains in the autumn saw levels of hunger begin to drop.

The tentative progress is now under threat from a poor rainy season, combined with funding shortages leading to possible delays to lifesaving work.

The aid agency says there is little time to act to protect millions of people from falling into hunger.

Matt Croucher, Save the Children's East Africa humanitarian director, said: "Families in East Africa are facing the possibility of a second summer of extreme hunger. There is a very real chance that poor rains, crop failures and conflict will mean that the recovery that began in the autumn was a false dawn, and the region will experience a double-dip hunger crisis.

"Decisive action could prevent a repeat of last year's crisis; we must prepare for the worst, not just hope for the best."

In Kenya, forecasts of poor rains in the arid north-east are prompting fears of rapid deterioration in food security.

In Ethiopia, rains are already late in some areas, leading to water shortages and the failure of key root crops. And in Somalia, millions of people left vulnerable by last year's crisis face starvation unless immediate funding is provided for emergency relief programmes.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "Save the Children are absolutely right to call on the international community to remember the continuing food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Britain has been leading the world in tackling the awful situation in East Africa and we continue to urge others to prioritise this critical issue."

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