UNICEF concerned about impact of drought on children in the Horn of Africa

With a major food and refugee crisis looming in the Horn of Africa due to a deadly combination of drought, on-going conflict and escalating food prices, UNICEF calls on local governments and donors to lead a rapid humanitarian response. Millions of children and women are at risk from death and disease unless a rapid and speedy response is put into action.

NAIROBI/NEW YORK  (June 29, 2011) —With a major food and refugee crisis looming in the Horn of Africa due to a deadly combination of drought, on-going conflict and escalating food prices, UNICEF calls on local governments and donors to lead a rapid humanitarian response. According to UNICEF, millions of children and women are at risk from death and disease unless a rapid and speedy response is put into action.

As usual, vulnerable and disadvantaged children are the ones who suffer the most. Over 9 million people are already in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, close to 2 million of them are children under the age of five.

This volatile region has seen many crises. The current one, talked of as the worst for 60 years, threatens thousands of families already living in the direst of conditions. The past months have been the driest in six decades in parts of the region. Global Acute Malnutrition rates in Northern Kenya are now above 25 % with records of 37.4 % in the Turkana district.

Thousands of families are crossing the border from Somalia on their way to the refugee camps in Dolo Ado in Ethiopia and Dadaab in Kenya, which are already completely overwhelmed.

UNICEF is directly supporting the rehabilitation of moderately and severely malnourished children in partnership with government health services, NGOs and community organizations.  Similar partnerships have enabled vital child immunization campaigns, health outreach support, programmes to ensure access to safe water and improve sanitation particularly in IDP and refugee camps. 

However, funding shortfalls and in some areas, the denial of access, threaten to disrupt these essential services.

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 8.1 million in 2009. But still, 22,000 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