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UNICEF delivers crucial supplies as the situation in the Horn of Africa deteriorates

NEW YORK, United States, 22 July 2011 – A tragedy of epic proportions is unfolding in the Horn of Africa, where hundreds of thousands of children are facing death due to starvation. The disastrous combination of a paralyzing drought, skyrocketing food prices and conflict has left over 11 million people battling hunger to survive.

The United Nations has declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia - southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle - and warned that if immediate action is not taken, famine could spread to all eight southern regions in two months.

UNICEF estimates that 1.85 million are in dire need of urgent aid. In some regions one in every three children is severely malnourished, their lives at risk.

Race against time

The organization has appealed for urgent help to provide the critical assistance to prevent what is already the world’s worst humanitarian disaster from becoming even more serious.

“We are gearing up our logistics to deliver unprecedented supplies of therapeutic and supplementary foods across the Horn,” said Shanelle Hall, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division. “If we are to save lives, we need to act now – to bring in massive quantities of medicines, vaccines, nutrition supplies into the region as quickly as we are able and then get them out to the children who need it most.”

Since the beginning of July, UNICEF has delivered 1,300 metric tons of life saving supplies to some of the hardest hit areas in southern Somalia, including enough therapeutic supplies to treat over 66,000 children malnourished children.

In an effort to prevent the outbreak of disease, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and essential medicines including vaccines are being airlifted to support massive vaccination campaigns that are currently conducted.

Pushed to the brink

Across the semi-arid and arid areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, thousands of people have been trekking for days in search of food and water, awaiting assistance that could mean the difference between life and death. 

In Somalia, a country where decades of war and instability has already pushed the most marginalized and vulnerable to the brink, the suffering seems unending. Driven from their homes into neighbouring countries, tens of thousands of Somalis arrive daily at places such as Dadaab in North-Eastern Kenya, the world’s largest refugee camp, providing shelter to more than 383,000 people.

Reaching every child

In order to step up operations and reach the most vulnerable children in the Horn of Africa, UNICEF estimates it will need USD$100 million over the next six months.

“UNICEF is using every means possible to reach every child. There simply can be no compromise on the objective to keep children and their families alive,” said Elhadj As Sy, Regional Director for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa. “Every life must count and we cannot afford to lose more lives to this crisis.”



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