US: Somalia food crisis one of biggest in decades

By the Associated Press | July 15, 2011 | 9:59 AM EDT

Jacfar Issack Abdi, 6 months, is fed by his mother as he is treated for malnutrition at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya, Friday, July 15, 2011. East Africa's drought is battering Somali children, hundreds of whom have been left for dead on the long, dry journey to the world's largest refugee complex in Dadaab, northern Kenya. UNICEF on Thursday called the drought and refugee crisis "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world." (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A U.S. State Department official says the drought emergency roiling East Africa is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in decades.

Reuben E. Brigety said Friday that the U.S. will provide aid for the crisis in a "significant" way despite the debt ceiling impasse being debated in Washington.

Tens of thousands of Somali refugees are flooding camps in Ethiopia and Kenya in search of food after several seasons with no rain in Somalia.

The United States already has pledged an additional $5 million. That's on top of a previously budgeted $63 million for refugees. Brigety said Washington is now studying how much more it will give.