GENEVA (AP) _ A lack of rain in the Horn of Africa could further devastate a region where international agencies already are feeding 7 million people, a top U.N. official said Monday.

Jean-Jacques Graisse, deputy executive director of the World Food Program, said weather predictions for the eastern part of the continent suggest that rains might fail again, as they did late last year when there was ``an extremely severe drought.''

The ``short rains'' season failed totally in northern Kenya and in Somalia, Djibouti, the Somali region of Ethiopia and to some extent in Rwanda and Burundi, Graisse said.

Some predictions indicate ``the rains will be deficient once again during the long rains season which is about to start,'' he said.

Millions of carcasses of animals that died of thirst are scattered across in nomadic pastoral areas, he said, adding that ``the number of people that need to be fed in the region has increased very dramatically.''

Aid groups so far had managed to prevent famine, but the challenge could become greater, he said.

The forecast looked brighter in southern Africa, which suffered an ``extremely serious'' drought last year, he said.

``The situation probably will be better later this year because all predictions are that rain will be reasonably good for the southern part of Africa,'' he said.

Even so, he added, southern Africa will continue to have food production problems because so many adults have died of AIDS that the people who remain no longer are capable of farming the land.

``You do have millions of orphans,'' Graisse said. ``You have drastically reduced life expectancy, which has fallen by as much as 30 years in the last few years in many of these countries.''