The World Food Programme on Monday issued an appeal for nearly half a billion dollars to assist 9.6 million Ethiopians affected by drought and high food prices, for the next six months, reported dpa.
"The Horn of Africa region is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since 1984, and Ethiopia is caught in the middle," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. "We know what needs to be done. We just need the funds to go out and do our job - protecting the hungry."
An estimated 2 million of the 9.6 million people needing assistance live in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where it has not rained for three years, the UN said. The resulting drought has killed half of cattle herds, people are skipping meals and children have stopped going to school so they can beg on the streets.
Sheeran said people in that region are in "extreme distress" and urgently need food assistance.
She said conditions in neighbouring Somalia are equally dire, with more than 3 million people, or almost half the population, affected by drought, high food prices and conflict.
Somalia, which receives most of its international relief aid by sea, is also fighting pirates who operate openly off its shores, hijack ships and seize supplies meant for the destitute.
WFP said Canada planned to withdraw on September 27 a naval vessel that has been escorting ships carrying humanitarian aid. No other government has so far offered similar protection for relief ships.