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UNICEF calls on airlines to be a lifeline for the Horn of Africa

Friday 5 August 2011, 9:40AM
By UNICEF New Zealand
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UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) is calling on the air transport industry to help deliver food and life saving supplies to the Horn of Africa, where millions are facing starvation and disease.

"We're making an appeal to the air transport industry for free and heavily discounted cargo space to help us transport emergency nutrition supplies to the Horn of Africa," said Marixie Mercado, spokeswoman for the UN children's agency.

UNICEF is trying to get 5,000 metric tons of food from its warehouses in Europe to the region, but with costs of approximately USD$350,000 to transport just 100 metric tons of food by cargo jumbo jet from France to Nairobi.

"That costs us pretty much the cost of the cargo itself," notes Mercado. While transportation by sea is another option, there is a six-week gap and not all of those who are in need can afford to wait, said the UNICEF spokeswoman.

British Airways, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and UPS have all offered to transport between 15 and 50 metric tons a week, but UNICEF is "looking to others to step forward as well."

"There are over 2.3 million acutely malnourished children in the Horn of Africa. More than half a million will die if they don't get help within weeks," said Mercado.

Despite the challenges to a country torn apart by conflict, insecurity and poverty, UNICEF has already delivered close to two-thousand metric tons of life saving supplies making it the largest supplier of therapeutic and supplementary nutrition in the country.

With the aid of therapeutic feeding, children can fully recuperate within 4-6 weeks – this means lives can be saved if urgent action is taken.

"We are asking the air transport industry for free or heavily discounted cargo space to transport this therapeutic food to children who will die without it.”

UNICEF plans to scale up its work to save lives and build a future for the country’s children. To do so it needs an estimated USD$300m, but with a shortfall of USD$200m UNICEF is failing to keep pace with what has become the most severe humanitarian crisis the world faces today.

UNICEF NZ urgently needs funds to reach malnourished children in East Africa. For only $52 you could help feed a malnourished child for almost a month. Please donate now at www.unicef.org.nz or call 0800 800 194.