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UNICEF appeals for $16 million to fund emergency drought relief in the Horn of Africa

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Somalia/2006/Bannon
Two children stand at the edge of a camp near Wajid, Somalia. Many families walked for days to arrive here in the hopes of accessing water and humanitarian assistance. In the last three months, the number of families in the camp has increased tenfold, to 1500.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 3 February 2006 – UNICEF has launched an appeal for $16 million dollars to fund emergency aid in the Horn of Africa. More than 8 million people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti are affected by a worsening drought. With rain not due until April, UNICEF fears the situation will deteriorate even further.

Funds raised in this appeal will help UNICEF, working with the countries’ governments and other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, to provide critical life-saving programmes over the next three months.

UNICEF Humanitarian Support Unit Manager Gerry Dyer says it is critical that the people in the Horn of Africa receive immediate assistance. “This is the lean season and what’s coming up is the time of year when people are traditionally low on food stocks. We want to make sure that we avoid the severe malnutrition of the mid ‘80s and early ‘90s by addressing this early in the year.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF video
A malnourished child receives assistance at a UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding centre in Kenya.

Keeping children in school

Water is scarce in the region as a result of low rainfall in recent 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.

Historically, droughts and food shortages in East Africa have led to mass migrations, as families leave their villages and head to larger communities in search of food. 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. By tackling the drought at a community level, UNICEF hopes to encourage people to stay at home.

Some reports from across the region suggest that population movements may already be beginning. Many schools are reporting increased drop-out rates and some have been forced to close. For example, in four districts in Somalia only 14 of 104 schools remain open. But the situation is complex. Reports from Kenya suggest that some children are enrolling in school for the first time to take advantage of the food and water available to pupils.

Keeping children in school during a crisis, as far as possible, is advantageous for the entire community. It not only allows children to continue learning, 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 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, vaccines and supplements

The area affected by this drought is already one of the most vulnerable regions in the world. Gerry Dyer explains: “If you’re a ten year old child growing up in Somalia, for example, you have spent your entire life witnessing war, floods and drought. And now we have yet another drought in that part of the world.”

UNICEF is already supporting efforts by the World Food Programme to provide emergency food aid to more than 5 million people. This emergency appeal will help UNICEF continue supplying high-energy biscuits and fortified milk.

The appeal will also allow UNICEF to provide support for health care, and in particular to supply measles vaccine and vitamin A supplements to boost children’s immunity at this time of increased vulnerability.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen previously in the Horn of Africa,” says Mr. Dyer, “is that when children are affected by both measles and malnutrition, it’s a deadly combination. You see a spike in mortality when there’s a large measles outbreak... so UNICEF is planning immunization campaigns in all these affected countries.”
In Ethiopia, UNICEF has already begun immunizing 314,000 children under five against measles and plans to reach a total of 750,000 in three months.


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Video

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.

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