Catastrophe looms for the Horn of Africa
Millions of children are at risk from one of the worst climate-induced emergencies in decades.
What’s happening in the Horn of Africa?
Four consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, sharp increases in food prices, and conflict have pushed children and families in the Horn of Africa to the brink of climate change-induced catastrophe.
Exceptional drought across large swathes of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Djibouti has unleashed hunger, thirst, displacement and death on already vulnerable communities as crops fail and livestock die. By early October 2022, some 8.5 million people – 4.2 million of them children – were facing severe water shortages, while 20 million required immediate food assistance as a result of the drought.
Communities have been forced to take extreme measures to survive, with thousands of children and families leaving their homes out of pure desperation in search of water, food, pasture, and treatment for sick children. The situation continues to deteriorate, exacerbating a climate-induced crisis that was already depriving children of the essentials of childhood – enough to eat, safe water, school, health services.
UNICEF is scaling-up the procurement and positioning of essential lifesaving supplies, building on its longstanding presence in the region and working with partners to expand critical services. Read more about UNICEF’s response and what UNICEF is calling for.
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How are children affected?
Without water, crops cannot grow, and animals and livestock die. The resulting loss of nutritious food, coupled with poor access to safe water and sanitation, exposes children to a high risk of malnutrition. The number of children in the Horn of Africa region who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the deadliest form of malnutrition – has soared.
Meanwhile, children are at risk of dropping out of school to care for animals, go on ever longer journeys to collect water, or work to help support their families – and in doing so, face greater risks of exploitation, abuse or violence. Many are also losing their homes as families are driven from their homes in a desperate search for food, water, pasture and livelihoods, compounding already significant existing levels of internal displacement due to conflict and political instability.
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How is UNICEF responding to climate crises in the region?
UNICEF is working to ensure that drought-affected children and families can receive the lifesaving support they so urgently need, while also supporting their recovery and building resilience against future shocks.
UNICEF is working with partners to:
- Provide access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. This includes emergency water trucking, urgent rehabilitation and repairs of water supply systems, drilling new boreholes, and hygiene promotion activities.
- Ensure access to nutritional support. This includes increasing procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and expanding the number of nutrition sites to boost treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
- Prioritize child protection services. These include support for survivors of gender-based violence and delivering family tracing and reunification services.
- Provide basic education in safe and protective learning environments. This includes a two-pronged approach: Ensuring affected children can remain in their current schools while also providing access to learning opportunities for those who have been displaced.
- Support health care for children and women. This means expanding facility-based and mobile health and nutrition teams to improve access to essential lifesaving services, including critical routine vaccinations for children under five and increasing the number of treatment centres.
UNICEF has launched a regional call to action to address the drought crisis. If immediate funding needs are met, life-saving support may avert catastrophic consequences.
Recurrent droughts and increasing water insecurity need long-term investments in water, sanitation and hygiene services, water management, and climate-proof infrastructure. Climate change is leading to unpredictable variations in temperature and rainfall patterns, which is expected to increase, both in frequency and intensity.
Durable solutions are required to ensure water security for all, at all times. Read more here about the climate crisis and how UNICEF is protecting, preparing and prioritizing every child for a safe, sustainable and water-secure future.