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UNICEF Estimates Over Two Million Children Threatened by East Africa Crisis

Monday 11 July 2011, 9:39AM
By UNICEF New Zealand
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UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) estimates that over two million young children are malnourished and in need of urgent life-saving action if they are to survive dire conditions in drought-affected countries in the Horn of Africa.

Half a million of those children are facing imminent life-threatening conditions, with long lasting consequences to their physical and mental development. UNICEF urgently needs US $31.9 million (NZ $ 38million) for the next three months alone, to provide vital life-saving support.

High food prices and prolonged drought are worsening an already appalling situation for thousands of families in need of food and water. Countries most seriously affected are Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Global acute malnutrition rates in Northern Kenya are now above 25 per cent and as high as nearly 40 per cent in the Turkana district.

UNICEF estimates a total of 10 million people are already in need of humanitarian assistance. Thousands of families are crossing the border from Somalia as emergency feeding centres are set up by UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies in neighbouring countries. The refugee situation is growing with some 10,000 arriving every week in Dadaab on the border between Somalia and Kenya.

The threat of disease on already weakened young children is of particular concern and UNICEF is urgently setting up child immunization campaigns. Along with other government agencies and NGOs, UNICEF will be working in the vital areas of water, food and sanitation in the coming days to ward off a massive emergency.

In the most affected areas of Ethiopia, UNICEF has already distributed food to almost 34,000 severely malnourished children, and ensured access to water and sanitation for over 280,000 people. In South Somalia, UNICEF and its partners are also providing basic health care services to nearly 900,000 people, and has provided water and sanitation to over a million.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ, said “UNICEF has been supporting children in East Africa for many years and has been able to quickly step up our work to try and alleviate the suffering caused by the current crisis.

“But a lack of funding is threatening to disrupt the essential services which UNICEF is providing, such as distributing emergency food supplies and immunization. The fact is that without urgent help many more children are going to die of hunger.”

UNICEF NZ urgently needs funds to reach malnourished children in East Africa. For only $15 you could help feed a malnourished child for a week. Please donate now at www.unicef.org.nz or call 0800 800 194.