Over 15 million people are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to the severe drought currently affecting countries in the Horn of Africa, with 8 million of them in need of emergency food aid and supplies, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. As part of the 2006 consolidated appeal for the region recently launched by the UN and its humanitarian partners, FAO is seeking over $11 million to support its emergency-related agricultural activities in three of the affected countries – Eritrea, Djibouti and Kenya – as well as $11.6 million under the revised appeal for Somalia. “The support of the humanitarian community is essential,” the Director of FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division, Anne M. Bauer, said. “FAO, with the support of donors, will play a key role in helping these countries restore pastoral livelihoods and help vulnerable people meet their nutritional needs.” Today’s statement was the latest in a spate of recent warnings over the situation in the area, where UN Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa Kjell Magne Bondevik is currently on a week-long mission. The predominately pastoral and agro-pastoral communities are being forced to travel vast distances to find grazing for their animals. Meanwhile, reduced agricultural production has led to a dramatic increase in the price of food commodities, particularly cereals. Without assistance, many people face malnutrition, significantly increased risk of disease, loss of livelihoods and even death. Recent beneficial rains in most parts of the drought-affected areas of northern and eastern Kenya, southern and eastern Ethiopia and southern Somalia have improved water availability and given hope for improved pasture in the weeks ahead.But the arrival of the rains is not the end of the problem. Many animals weakened by the drought will be particularly vulnerable to internal parasites and clostridial infections after the sudden flush of grass and further livestock losses could occur. Even assuming a period of normal rains, it will take years for some of the livestock herds and flocks to recover to levels that can provide their owners with a sustainable livelihood. Vulnerable communities, already suffering from years of drought and erratic and below normal rainfall patterns, will need continuing support and development assistance during these crucial years. FAO’s assistance will focus on livestock health by de-worming and immunizing productive animals against contagious diseases as well as providing fodder crop seeds.