Crisis in the Horn of Africa far from over

The massive international response to the child survival crisis in the Horn of Africa has already shown some positive results, but much more needs to be done to save hundreds of thousands of children at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease. Read a progress report on UNICEF's work and the situation in the region three months after famine was declared in parts of Somalia.

NEW YORK (October 20, 2011) — The massive international response to the child survival crisis in the Horn of Africa has already shown some positive results, but much more needs to be done to save hundreds of thousands of children at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease, UNICEF said today in a progress report three months after famine was declared in parts of Somalia.

"We have saved many children, in Somalia, in the refugee camps in neighboring countries, as well as in the other regions in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti hit by prolonged drought, escalating food prices and conflict," said Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, releasing the report: Response to the Horn of Africa Emergency. "Due to the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis, we have to increase our immediate response and at the same time lay the foundation for long-term development to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening again."

"We need more support to scale up even more our integrated interventions in health, nutrition, food security, water and sanitation, education and child protection to create a better future for the children in the Horn of Africa."

Some 13.3 million people need assistance. More than 450,000 Somalis have fled to the refugee camps around Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya, including 100,000 since June. Another 183,000 Somalis have fled to Ethiopia, including more than 120,000 to the refugee camps in Dollo Ado; an additional 20,000 refugees have gone to Djibouti.

Thousands of children have already died, and more than 320,000—half of them in central and southern Somalia—are so severely malnourished that they may perish as well in the coming weeks and months, if relief operations are not scaled up rapidly.

The report found that the international response has been extraordinary. Thanks to all the support, in the past three months UNICEF and partners across the Horn of Africa have achieved important results on which to build, including:

  • Nearly 10,000 metric tons of life-saving UNICEF supplies delivered to the Horn of Africa by air, land and sea routes;
  • 108,000 severely malnourished children treated through therapeutic feeding centers;
  • 1.2 million children vaccinated against measles;
  • 2.2 million people provided with access to safe water; and
  • 48,000 children provided with access to child-friendly spaces or other safe environments.

The report also found that community-based systems like the Productive Safety Net Program and the Health Extension Program in Ethiopia have been instrumental in preventing higher death rates.

In central and southern Somalia, where access for humanitarian agencies is limited, UNICEF has been able to reach 350,000 people with supplementary feeding and some 30,000 families with cooked meals while they were on their way to the refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. Forecasts for the October-to-December rainy season indicate that food security may improve in Kenya and Ethiopia, where rains have recently began. Still, experience also shows that seasonal rains, after prolonged drought, increase the risk of flooding and outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera, malaria and pneumonia.

In central and southern Somalia, the situation will deteriorate further if humanitarian access cannot be improved rapidly and significantly.

"We need to go the extra mile to reach all children and their families who need our help. The crisis is far from over, and will definitely continue well into 2012," said Elhadj As Sy, who is also the UNICEF Global Emergency Coordinator for the Horn of Africa crisis. "One thing is clear: with continued support from our donors and partners, our combined efforts to save lives, livelihoods and ways of life will make a difference."

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian aid organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health and immunizations, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency and disaster relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. But still, 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, (m) 646.428.5010, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, kschoop@unicefusa.org