UNICEF seeks strengthened cooperation with Governments, international organizations in the Gulf
DOHA, 21 November 2011 – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director a.i. Rima Salah has just concluded a one-week trip to the Gulf to strengthen cooperation in responding to humanitarian crises.
"We had very good discussions with senior representatives of Governments, international organizations and other partners,” said Dr. Salah. “We look forward to working with them to realize the enormous potential to save and improve the lives of children, especially in the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and Yemen.”
The first leg of Dr. Salah’s trip was with UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos. They visited Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Ms. Amos signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Dr. Salah travelled on for further meetings with officials in the Saudi capital, then on to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates before arriving today to Doha, Qatar.
At the centre of the discussions between Dr. Salah and the officials she met were the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, especially the famine in Somalia, and the dramatic situations in Yemen and Pakistan.
“The tragedy that continues to unfold in Somalia is staggering,” said Dr. Salah. “With hundreds of children dying every day, the coming weeks and months will be critical in saving lives. Providing assistance is a matter of life or death for many of Somalia’s children.”
Despite the recent announcement by the food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) in Somalia of a decrease in the number of famine zones across south Somalia, and the decline of global acute malnutrition and crude death rates, the situation for thousands of children remains dire. Malnutrition rates continue to remain above the famine threshold levels in a large part of southern Somalia and child death rates also remain above crisis levels in several areas.
Four million people are in crisis across Somalia with 250,000 people in famine-affected areas at risk of dying. Some 190,000 children are severely malnourished and highly vulnerable to killer diseases such as cholera, malaria and measles, which usually spread during the current rainy season.
“Even before the famine, Somalia had the highest child mortality rate in the world with one in six children dying before their fifth birthday. With the famine and now the threat of mass outbreaks of disease, this could actually become much higher,” Dr. Salah noted.
Since famine was declared on July 20, UNICEF’s emergency response has reached hundreds of thousands of children and their families, likely saving thousands of lives. Some of the key results include: nutrition assistance to more than 135,000 severely malnourished children, measles vaccination to 1.2 million children, and access to safe drinking water for 1.8 million people.
“UNICEF and its partners worked around the clock to save as many children’s lives as possible. But hundreds of thousands of lives are still in peril and will be well into 2012. We appeal to everyone to join us in continuing to ramp up our support to ensure we reach as many children as possible,” Dr. Salah added.
During the trip, the humanitarian crises in both Yemen and Pakistan were also discussed.
In Yemen, continued conflicts and political struggles throughout have led to a widespread and deep humanitarian crisis, especially for children and women. Since the beginning of civil unrest, a total of 109 children have been killed in Yemen and close to 300 injured by shootings or shrapnel.
Malnutrition rates in some parts of the country have become extremely high, and fewer and fewer children are receiving basic immunizations, while schools, which should be safe havens for children, are either closed or occupied by armed forces. UNICEF estimates over 100,000 children in need of psychosocial support because of the violence.
In Pakistan, a complicated emergency has developed, involving 5.1 million people – 2.4 million children and 1.2 million are women – because of this year’s severe monsoon floods, while many people are still recovering from the severe 2010 floods - resulting in a double disaster. Although waters are receding and three-quarters of displaced families have returned to home areas, most have found their houses, infrastructure, livelihoods and communities destroyed.
Flood destruction to crops and livelihoods is leading to reduced food security and the threat of widespread malnutrition looms. The level of global acute malnutrition in badly hit Sindh province was already above the emergency threshold prior to the floods.
To continue its emergency response in all three of these countries, UNICEF urgently needs additional resources. For Somalia alone, UNICEF requires nearly $25 million by the end of November to prevent life-threatening breaks in its food supply pipeline in early 2012 and an additional $40 million to sustain its emergency operations until the end of 2011.
In Yemen, humanitarian requirements for 2012 have doubled compared to 2011, due in part to the deteriorating socio-economic situation and the influx of refugees from neighboring Somalia. UNICEF Yemen needs $50 million to cover gaps in the procurement of vaccines and nutrients for mothers and children attending some 320 therapeutic and supplementary feeding centers throughout the country. Support will also be required to cover schooling materials for over 800,000 children along with support in psychosocial and recreational activities and for the ongoing water supplies to some 400,000 internally displaced persons.
For Pakistan, UNICEF has only received $14.7 million of the US$50.3 million it requires to cover the basic needs of the flood-affected children and women for six months leaving a funding gap of more than $35 million.
For further information, please contact:
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York,
Najwa Mekki, UNICEF Middle East and North Africa,