An international aid group is calling on Canada to pledge at least $40 million in aid for millions of people suffering the effects of famine in the Horn of Africa.

International Co-Operation Minister Bev Oda is in Kenya to see first hand the refugee camps now swelling with people fleeing ongoing conflict in Somalia.

The drought crisis in the region has been escalating for weeks but on Wednesday, the United Nations officially declared the situation in Somalia a famine.

It is the most severe point on a five-tiered scale used by international agencies to assess food security.

According to the UN, it means acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent, more than two people per every 10,000 die per day, and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities.

Aid efforts in Somalia have been hampered by the refusal of armed groups fighting against the current Somali government to let international aid workers into the country.

But last week, the main group, al-Shabab, said it would start allowing some aid to get through.

Still, the drought has spread beyond those borders, affecting people in Ethiopia and Kenya as well.

Canada has pledged $22 million

Canada has already pledged $22 million in humanitarian aid to the region so far this year, with half of that allocated specifically to Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

But Oxfam Canada is calling on Oda to up the ante.

"Canada was one of the first with money into the pipeline and supporting important programs there," said Oxfam's Executive Director Robert Fox.

"But faced with the scale, we would hope that Canada would be able to contribute generously."

Oxfam says the appropriate amount for Canada to give is about four per cent of the unfilled portion of the UN's call for $1.8 billion in aid to stave off further crisis.

UN officials said today they need an immediate $300 million to get through the next two months.

Oda is expected to make a funding announcement on Friday.

The UN food agency will hold a meeting in Rome next week to discuss a internationally co-ordinated approach to the crisis.

"We're hoping that people aren't waiting for photo ops to make announcements, or waiting for summitry in order to put something on the table. Because too often, what we've seen is they have their conference, they make their pledges and they walk away and the cheques don't arrive," said Fox.

Aid groups are also hoping Canadian reach into their own pockets.

A coalition of Canadian agencies launched a national appeal Wednesday, as did the United Church of Canada.