UNICEF scaling up operations to respond to urgent needs in Horn of Africa

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, nearly 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. UNICEF estimates it will need $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.

NEW YORK (July 22, 2011) — 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, nearly 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.

"This summer has been an unspeakable nightmare for millions of children in the Horn of Africa," said President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Caryl Stern. "We cannot control the weather patterns that have led to drought and famine, but we can do something about helping those who suffer from it. The sooner we act, the more children's lives can be saved. As little as $10 can feed a child for 10 days."

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 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. $1.2 million in UNICEF emergency supplies have been dispatched to the Somali region of Ethiopia, and UNICEF has provided partners in Kenya with $1.4 million in supplies for children in camps and drought-affected pastoral areas.

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. 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.

"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 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."

"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 crisis."

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 $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.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency 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 more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

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