NEW YORK – 7 February 2006 - A major crisis has hit the Horn of Africa, where a severe drought is endangering an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five, UNICEF said today.
The drought has left an estimated 8 million people in need of emergency assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said that UNICEF is responding now in an effort to avoid a greater crisis in the months to come.
“There is a potential for widespread disease, greater malnutrition and the displacement of significant numbers of people,” Veneman said Tuesday. “The international community must respond immediately to the need for assistance.”
Southern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and central and southern Somalia have been severely impacted over the past several months. Rains have largely failed in the area for two years leading to livestock deaths, crop failures and the loss of water sources.
Crop failure and the death of livestock are significant factors contributing to increased malnutrition among children. Measles also poses a threat to children’s survival as immunization rates in the affected areas are low. Children weakened by malnutrition face a much higher risk of infection, and measles can spread lethally and quickly among unprotected populations.
Working with governments, the World Food Programme and NGO partners in the affected countries, UNICEF is already supporting feeding programmes in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Over the next several months, UNICEF plans to further expand therapeutic feeding programmes, including in Djibouti, step up vaccination and vitamin A campaigns, provide water and sanitation services, and reduce the potential for abuse and exploitation of children resulting from loss of income, movement of people and competition for very limited resources across borders.
UNICEF is requesting U.S. $16 million to fund its response to the drought in the region. These additional resources will allow the agency to move quickly in getting water and other services into the affected areas, including measles immunization campaigns for children and families. The drought also has a long-term impact on children’s education. Many are not attending school in order to join in the search for food and water. In four districts in Somalia, only 14 out of 104 schools are still open. Other schools in Kenya are actually reporting increased enrollment, as children attend to bring home food for their families’ survival.
“The severe drought may not be receiving the same amount of attention as other emergencies. We must act now to save lives,” said Veneman.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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7 February 2006:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman discusses the situation in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.
3 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.
More on the drought in the Horn of Africa