Eastern and Southern Africa

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman: Urgent action needed in drought-stricken Horn of Africa

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ06-0021/Sara Cameron
Children collect lunch at Bangale Primary School, Tana River District, Kenya. Most of them save the food and carry it home to share with their families. Food and water shortages are becoming more acute as the effect of the drought deepens.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 7 February 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is calling for immediate action in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa to keep children from dying.

More than 8 million people across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti are affected by the drought. The severe crisis is threatening the lives of 1.5 million children under the age of five.

“This is an area of Africa that often suffers from drought and, when drought occurs, it impacts the nutrition of children so we are concerned that children will suffer from malnutrition,” said Ms. Veneman. “They are more susceptible to disease and in these situations previously, we’ve seen mortality rates for children increase so we want to get into the area early so we can address the needs particularly of the children.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Somalia/2006/Bannon
Two children stand at the edge of a relief camp near Wajid, Somalia. In the last three months, the number of families in the camp has increased tenfold.

Funding appeal

UNICEF has launched an appeal for $16 million to fund emergency aid in the region. These resources will enable the organization to move quickly in getting aid into affected areas, supplying water, supporting health care, and providing measles vaccine and vitamin A supplements to boost children’s immunity.

“We are running programmes in water and sanitation, and nutrition programmes along with the World Food Program,” said Ms. Veneman. “And as well, we will be conducting an emergency campaign to get immunization for measles, because this is a disease that will rapidly impact children if they’re not immunized.”

Water is scarce in the region as a result of low rainfall for several years. Crops have failed and livestock are dying. For many families this means the loss of their own food supply and their primary source of income. With rain not due until April, the situation may well deteriorate further.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Heavens
Fatuma, 13, holds her severely malnourished brother Niman in the UNICEF-supported therapeutic treatment unit in Gode Hospital, in Ethiopia's drought-stricken Somali region.

Feeding programmes in place

Historically, droughts and food shortages in East Africa have led to mass migrations, as families leave their villages in search of food. Population migrations are already beginning.

Migration makes children more vulnerable in times of crisis because they are unable to attend school and because they may be separated from their families. In some areas, schools are reporting increased drop-out rates and some have been forced to close.

When possible, keeping children in school during a crisis is advantageous for the entire community. Not only does it allow them to continue learning, but it also makes it easier to provide them with water and food aid, and gives them the benefits of a regular routine. Funds from this appeal will in part help provide schools in the area with water tanks.

UNICEF has been working with the governments of the affected countries, along with the World Food Programme and other partner organizations. Feeding programmes have already been put into place in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Rachel Bonham Carter contributed to this story.


 

 

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7 February 2006:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman discusses the situation in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.

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7 February 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on the organization’s emergency appeal for $16 million to help children and women affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa.

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