One year after famine declaration: Countless lives saved, but situation for children still grave in the Horn of Africa

A year ago today, the crisis in the Horn of Africa reached a boiling point when the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia.

NEW YORK (July 20, 2012) — A year ago today, the crisis in the Horn of Africa reached a boiling point when the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia. Extraordinary international support helped save countless lives in Eastern Africa and reverse the famine in Somalia.

However, the crisis is far from over. Eight million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Children, in particular, are threatened by a combination of poverty, insecurity, malnutrition, and disease. UNICEF needs a total of $273 million this year for its emergency relief and development programs in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. To date, only 33% of the funds have been received.

“While our lifesaving interventions and supplies reached millions of children and their families, many children could not be reached and remain extremely vulnerable,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy. “This was, and continues to be, a children’s emergency. We must continue to provide emergency assistance where needed, but must also work more closely with communities to boost their capacity to prevent future crises.”

With generous support from donors, who provided more than $396 million for UNICEF’s relief efforts, the organization was able to expand both its emergency and longer-term development work in drought-stricken parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, where more than 13 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2011. Between July and December of last year, some 63,000 metric tons of humanitarian supplies were delivered—half of which were supplementary and therapeutic food to prevent and treat severe malnutrition. To date, nearly 1 million children have been treated for malnutrition across the region.

“Support from Americans was critical to saving the lives of so many children across the Horn of Africa, and their generosity is still being felt by families in the region,” said Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “But despite serious progress, there is a long road ahead for millions of fragile children. As long as any one of them dies needlessly, we still have work to do.”

With a third of the population, or 2.5 million, still in need of emergency assistance, Somalia remains the worst affected country in the Horn of Africa. In some regions of the South, one in five children is suffering from life-threatening acute malnutrition. In Kenya, 2.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, as are 3.2 million people in Ethiopia. Malnutrition continues to be a serious concern; nearly 900,000 children are suffering from malnutrition in the three countries.

The crisis forced thousands of people out of their homes. There are now more than 626,000 Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia. Inside Somalia, more than 1 million people are internally displaced, nearly 60% of them children. Conflict, instability, poor rains and continued restricted access for aid agencies pose a major threat to children and their families. There are already indications that the situation could deteriorate in southern Somalia, where acute malnutrition among children under five in some places is nearly twice the level considered to be an emergency.

Short-term assistance, although crucial to address health, nutrition, and water and sanitation needs, will not prevent future crises from occurring. Drawing inspirations from communities’ own responses and coping strategies, UNICEF has been working over the years on long-term interventions to build resilience and address the needs of the most vulnerable. These efforts include strengthening safety nets for vulnerable families and improving basic services in health, nutrition, sanitation and education.

“Traditional coping mechanisms are being stretched to the limit for many communities,” said Sy. “The cycle of crises must be broken through new means of supporting communities to withstand and recover better from disaster. We need to preserve our hard-won gains, and invest in children today to prevent similar crises from happening again in the future.”

For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s programs in the Horn of Africa, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:

Toll free: 1-800-4UNICEF (1-800-486-4233)
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038


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 more than 12 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 make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146,
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634,