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UNICEF seeks additional funds to aid children affected by Ethiopia’s growing food crisis

© UNICEF video
Five-year-old Khesna, who is suffering from malnutrition, receives life saving treatment at the UNICEF-supported Bissidimo Hospital in eastern Ethiopia.

By Indrias Getachew

EAST HARERGHE, Ethiopia, 19 May 2008—Ibro Bekeri Yusuf’s daughter Khesna, age five, is severely malnourished. He has carried her to the UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding unit at Bissidimo Hospital so that she can receive life-saving treatment such as therapeutic milk. 

Khesna is the sixty-first patient at the unit, which currently only has capacity to treat 50. One week ago, the unit had 26 patients. The rapidly increasing case load – and the expectation that more children are on their way –  is prompting the hospital to increase its capacity.   “I have seven children and I used to live well with the income that I earned. But now the price of grain has gone up. We have no water.  My other children are also suffering,” said Mr. Yusuf, a farmer. 

Rapidly growing demand

Drought and soaring food prices are placing thousands of Ethiopian families under tremendous strain. The small rains which in normal years allow farmers to produce a second crop, failed this year.

© UNICEF video
UNICEF has appealed for 10 million dollars to help aid Ethiopian children whose lives are threatened by malnutrition.

Ethiopia is no stranger to food insecurity. Because of this, in 2004, the Government, in partnership with the World Food Programme and UNICEF, launched the Enhanced Outreach Strategy (EOS) – a targeted supplementary food programme for child survival in Ethiopia. 

EOS targets more than seven million children under five as well as pregnant and lactating mothers in 325 drought-affected districts. It provides a child survival package, vitamin A supplementation, de-worming, measles catch-up, nutritional screening and referral to supplementary or therapeutic feeding programmes.

“EOS is really very important from many perspectives with regard to child survival.  The first is it brings high-impact, low-cost child survival packages like vitamin A which can reduce child mortality by up to 35 per cent,” said UNICEF Emergency Nutrition Project Officer  Samson Dessie.

A critical shortfall

Currently, UNICEF is facing a critical shortfall in the supply of therapeutic foods used to treat children with severe acute malnutrition like Khesna. More than 10 million dollars is required immediately to respond to the emergency needs of children and women. 

UNICEF’s emergency response will include screening children in drought affected communities that have not been seen during this round of EOS screenings to identify and respond to the needs of all severely malnourished children.

“We have found children who are malnourished because there is not enough food.  The numbers have gone up a lot,” said EOS Health Extension worker, Maria Mohammed.

Khesna is one of the lucky ones. At Bissidimo Hospital she is receiving treatment that should have her back to normal in a few weeks. As the drought and food crisis continues, however, UNICEF will require the support of donors to save the lives of more children. 




16 May 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the food crisis which is threatening the lives of Ethiopia’s children.
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