by Patrick Appel

The Economist explores its causes:

More than 10m people in the Horn of Africa need emergency food aid. Livestock have been annihilated. Hundreds of thousands of people are streaming into refugee camps in search of help. Malnutrition rates in some areas are five times more severe than the threshold aid agencies use to define a crisis. Many children are already dying of starvation.  The areas most affected by the drought are northern Kenya, south-eastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia and Djibouti. The region’s last two rainy seasons were meagre. Rivers and boreholes are running dry, crops failing, traditional grazing land turning to dust. Up to 60% of cattle and goat herds, the main assets for many of the worst-affected people, have perished, their corpses and skeletons littering the plains.

Somalia is particularly hard-hit, as the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab has banned (under pain of attack) foreign aid groups for the past two years on grounds that they were "un-Islamic."  They've rescinded that ban recently, prompting the State Department to call for relief efforts in Somalia.