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Ethiopia: The hardest hit
The drought conditions are having the most severe impact in Ethiopia, especially around the towns of Gode, Denan and Imi in the southeast. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 172 out of 174 last year in its overall level of development, meaning that its vast population, one of the largest in Africa, is particularly vulnerable to drought. An estimated 8 million of Ethiopia's 60 million people are at immediate risk. UNICEF estimates that 1.4 million of those at risk are children under five.
Migration in search of relief and a lack of adequate shelter is increasing children's exposure to dust, sun and wind. Lack of food and water is weakening their immune systems. Under these conditions children are more vulnerable to disease. The top seven causes of illness in drought-prone areas are malaria, diarrhea, intestinal parasites, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and skin disease. It is estimated that 60 to 80 per cent of health problems in Ethiopia are due to malnutrition and preventable diseases.
UNICEF is focusing its efforts on immediate lifesaving interventions by providing safe water and preventing disease. Unfortunately, the crisis is likely to be protracted because most families have lost their cattle - the primary form of subsistence in the heavily affected southeast and south of the country (Somali Region). Emergency assistance is vital to keep people alive, but long-term development assistance will be needed to restore the shattered economic base of pastoral and agricultural areas.
In January 2000, UNICEF appealed to international donors for US $7.7 million to provide emergency relief to drought-affected areas. Health and nutrition relief constituted the majority of the appeal, followed by water and sanitation and emergency education initiatives. As of May 1, about half of the appeal target had been met, but the slow arrival of funding has hindered relief efforts. In February, UNICEF headquarters in New York released $1.5 million in emergency funds to jump-start crucial relief activities. This is in addition to the $16 million UNICEF Ethiopia plans to spend this year in support of ongoing health and water initiatives.
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