With famine now declared in two regions of Southern Somalia and malnutrition rates at emergency levels in arid and semi-arid regions across the Horn of Africa, almost 720,000 children are at risk of death without urgent assistance. In total 2.23 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are estimated to be acutely malnourished.
“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 stop famine and 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.”
Supplies prepositioned within the region had already been used to reach children in remote drought affected communities as well as children in camps for refugees and internally displaced people, Hall said. UNICEF is working with partners in the field to see how it can expand existing operations and build on opportunities like Child Health days that happen on a regular basis in many parts of the region.
“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 famine crisis.”
So far this month, by plane, truck and ship, 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 the next few months, UNICEF will expand supplementary feeding to reach 240,000 children and expand as quickly as is possible to reach more children and their families. In Ethiopia, USD$1.2 million in UNICEF emergency supplies had been dispatched to the Somali region, and UNICEF Kenya has provided partners with USD$1.4 million in supplies for children in camps and drought-affected pastoral areas.
Insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria and essential medicines including vaccines are being airlifted to support massive vaccination campaigns that will be conducted over the coming weeks to prevent the outbreak of disease. To expand provision of safe water and access to sanitation, boreholes will be drilled and rehabilitated; water trucking and hygiene activities will be expanded.
“We appreciate the generosity of the international community and those contributions are already making a difference. We urgently need more funds to meet the enormous need. Every minute that they are without lifesaving support is the difference between life and death,” Sy said.
UNICEF estimates it will need USD$100 million over the next six months for a massive scale up of operations to reach children in the drought affected areas with emergency and preventative assistance.