A year ago today, the crisis in the Horn of Africa reached boiling point when the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia. The extraordinary support from Ireland and throughout the world, coupled with favourable rains, helped save countless lives and reverse the famine.
With generous support from donors, who provided US$396 million in 2011, UNICEF expanded both its emergency and development work on the ground in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, where more than 13 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance. Between July and December 2011, about 63,000 metric tonnes of humanitarian supplies were delivered - half of these were supplementary and therapeutic food.
“Thanks in part to the generosity of the Irish public who responded to our appeal by donating over half a million euro, and the Irish government who pledged a total of €20 million, UNICEF has treated nearly one million children for malnutrition in the region over the last year,” said UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power.
However, the crisis is far from over. Eight million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Children, in particular, are threatened by a combination of poverty, insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.
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“While our life-saving interventions and supplies reached millions of children and their families, many could not be reached and remain extremely vulnerable,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Elhadj As Sy.
“Traditional coping mechanisms are being stretched to the limit for many communities,” said Mr. Sy.
Short-term emergency assistance, although crucial to address health, nutrition, and water and sanitation needs, will not prevent future crises. Drawing inspirations from communities’ own responses and coping strategies to crises, UNICEF has been increasingly working over the years on long-term interventions to build resilience and address the needs of the most vulnerable.
“This is an on-going children’s emergency with 900,000 children suffering from malnutrition in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. We’re focusing our efforts on preventing famine returning to this region by building local resistance and strengthening basic services such as health and education “continued Peter Power.
“UNICEF is investing in children now to prevent another crisis happening in the future.”
The crisis has also forced thousands of people out of their homes. There are now more than 626,000 Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia. Inside Somalia, more than one million people are internally displaced, nearly 60 per cent of them children. Conflict, instability, poor rains and continued restricted access for aid agencies pose a major threat to children and their families. There are already indications that the situation could deteriorate in southern Somalia, where acute malnutrition among children under five in some places is nearly twice the emergency threshold.