By JoAnne Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is increasing food aid to drought-hit and strife-torn Horn of Africa nations where millions of people are at risk of starvation and malnutrition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.
"I am pleased to announce that we are providing an additional $100 million, primarily in food assistance, for drought-affected areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia," Clinton said in remarks prepared for delivery at a U.N. World Food Program awards ceremony.
Clinton said the new funds were in addition to almost $650 million for food and humanitarian assistance the United States had already provided.
The United Nations says about 3.6 million people are at risk of starvation in Somalia and about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa region, including in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Aid agencies say they have been unable to reach more than 2 million Somalis facing starvation in territories held by the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab rebels.
Clinton said the additional U.S. support would help relief workers reach more people well into next year.
"Tens of thousands of people, mostly children, have already died," Clinton said. "As many as 750,000 people are currently experiencing famine-level conditions. And of course, that then sparks a refugee crisis."
"And in Somalia, we face the unpleasant reality of al-Shabaab curtailing access for relief workers and denying people food and medical aid," Clinton said.
Al Shabaab has been waging an insurgency against the UN-backed government in Somalia since 2007. It controls large parts of southern and central Somalia, as well as chunks of the capital, Mogadishu.
The Islamist militants, hostile to any Western intervention, have blocked humanitarian deliveries in the past, saying aid creates dependency.
(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh)