Nairobi: The World Bank has announced it is increasing funding for the drought in the Horn of Africa to nearly 2 billion USD, boosted from around 500 million USD which the Bank announced in July.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick says the financing will help fill a 1 billion USD funding gap needed to tackle drought and a food crisis engulfing parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Uganda.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a conference on the Horn of Africa famine over the weekend that around 700 million USD were still needed for this year alone.

"Next year we will need more," he added.

The UN had estimated that some 2.4 billion USD in aid were needed for immediate drought relief assistance. While international appeals had drawn 1.4 billion USD in donor pledges, a gap remained.

Somalia is at the epicenter of the hunger crisis. The UN says about 750,000 people face imminent starvation in Somalia, where the al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group, al Shabaab, controls much of the south and will not allow food shipments in.

Zoellick said the World Bank funding would be allocated in three phases following initial needs assessments conducted by Bank experts in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somali refugee camps and Uganda.

He made clear that the bulk of the funding was for long-term measures to aid resistance to drought, with just 288 million USD going for "rapid response" relief in the fiscal year ending next June 30.

"In addressing today's disaster, our role is to help build resilience for tomorrow. A humanitarian crisis need not and should not become a perpetual crisis," he said in a statement.

(Agencies)