UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour calls for undivided focus on plight of children affected by crisis in Horn of Africa
Pretoria, Nairobi - 7 September 2011 – UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour has called upon African and other world leaders to find lasting solutions to the repeated cycle of crisis, after meeting families affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa.
“Having looked into the faces and listened to the voices of those caught up in this tragedy, I find it unacceptable that I am confronted by such stories of suffering and despair in this day and age,” he said.
“There must be an indivertible and undivided focus on what is happening to children here in the Horn of Africa. Each of us has a role to play in responding to the urgent needs of these children, and doing whatever is necessary to prevent this happening again.”
Mr. N’Dour spent yesterday meeting Somali refugees living in the Dadaab camps in north-eastern Kenya. Earlier this week, the UN announced that the number of people affected by famine inside Somalia had doubled, to 750,000, since July.
During his visit to the refugee camps, Mr. N’Dour saw first-hand the treatment of severely malnourished children, immunization efforts and schools that opened this week in the camps.
Mr. N’Dour stressed the need for a collective effort, involving African leaders and local communities, to prevent the annual cycle of drought and disease in the region.
“African nations, African figureheads and African communities, alongside other world leaders, need to prioritise lasting solutions. That means strengthening governance so the right investments are made in basic services, championing peace so that people are no longer forced to flee their homes and livelihoods, protecting the natural environment so that peoples’ way of life is sustainable, and empowering local communities from where the process of change will emerge.”
Background on the situation in Somalia
Famine has been declared in 6 areas in southern Somalia: 750,000 people are famine-affected, at risk of death in the coming months in the absence of adequate response.
1.5 million children in the south are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, out of a total 3 million people in need in the south of the country. Across the nation, 4 million people are in crisis, more than half of the total population.
As of August, 450,000 children between six months and five years old are estimated to be acutely malnourished. 75 per cent of all acute malnutrition cases are in the south of the country, with 336,000 children acutely malnourished.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the past three month – of them half are children.
What is UNICEF doing
This is more than just a food crisis this is a crisis for child survival. We need to make sure we get a critical package of health, water and sanitation to children otherwise they can die from a combination of diseases and malnutrition.
UNICEF is the biggest provider of life-saving therapeutic food for children in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti but need more funds urgently to reach children in the worst affected regions as quickly as possible to prevent more children from dying. UNICEF works though our network of 70 partners operating in Southern Somalia.
For more information:
Shantha Bloemen, Chief of Communication, Africa Services Unit, UNICEF Johannesburg, mobile: +27 79 495-5938; email@example.com
Michael Klaus, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office: +254 (0)716 431 880, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thierry Delvigne-Jean, Chief of Communication & Partnerships, UNICEF South Africa: +27 (82) 561-3970, email@example.com