By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 30 August 2011 – “Something huge is happening, and it’s terrible,” said UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow after visiting the world’s largest refugee settlement in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya.
|VIDEO: 26 August 2011 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow reflects on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa after visiting Somali children and families at the vast refugee settlement in Dadaab, Kenya. Produced by Kyle O'Donoghue. Watch in RealPlayer|
Their crops and livestock dead, hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees have had no choice but to make perilous journey into Kenya in search of food and water.
The resources in Dadaab are strained beyond their limits as UNICEF and its partners struggle to meet the extraordinary need. Still, desperate families continue to arrive. More than 435,000 people are living in the camps at Dadaab, which were originally intended to house 90,000. Over half of them are children under the age of 18.
|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow meets a severely malnourished Somali child during a visit to refugee camps in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya.|
Back from the brink
Ms. Farrow visited newly arrived refugee families and inspected conditions in schools and health centres. She spoke to one woman who had walked for 25 days to reach Kenya. The woman said she had begged for food from strangers during the trek, but two of her children had died.
“So many of the kids haven’t made it, have died along the way,” said Ms Farrow. “This is an acute emergency.”
Despite the enormous demand, UNICEF and its partners have been able to feed the new arrivals and pull some of the worst-affected children back from the brink of death. About 18,000 severely malnourished children under five are now receiving treatment.
|Newly arrived at a camp for Somali refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, women hold their severely malnourished children while they wait to see a doctor.|
‘UNICEF needs your help’
“The good news is that they are being processed and there will be nourishment for the severely malnourished children,” said Ms. Farrow. “Most of them, I hope, will be saved.”
But with famine expected to engulf all of southern Somalia in the coming weeks, Ms. Farrow has issued an urgent public appeal on behalf of children there and throughout the eastern African region affected by prolonged drought, conflict and rising food prices.
“We’re having hard times around the world, I’m aware of that,” she said. “But they’re not as hard as for the people here. I mean, most of us can count on surviving the night. UNICEF needs your help to save lives, the lives of children in the Horn of Africa, who depend on you and me right now.”
Crisis in the Horn of Africa
In Kenya, school offers meals and shelter