UNICEF: over two million children are threatened by crisis in the Horn of Africa

UNICEF estimates that over two million young children are malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving actions, if they are to survive conditions in drought-affected countries in the Horn of Africa. Half a million of those children are facing imminent life-threatening conditions, with long lasting consequences to their physical and mental development.

NAIROBI/GENEVA/NEW YORK, (July 8, 2011) — UNICEF estimates that over two million young children are malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving actions, if they are to survive conditions in drought-affected countries in the Horn of Africa. Half a million of those children are facing imminent life-threatening conditions, with long lasting consequences to their physical and mental development.

This crisis is being called the worst for 50 years, in a region familiar with severe drought. Countries most seriously affected are Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Global acute malnutrition rates in Northern Kenya are now above 25% with records reaching as high as nearly 40% in the Turkana district. UNICEF estimates a total of 10 million people are already in need of humanitarian assistance.

High food prices and prolonged drought are worsening an already dire situation for thousands of families in need of food and water. Thousands of families are crossing the border from Somalia as emergency feeding centers are being set up by UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies in neighboring countries. The refugee situation is growing with some 10,000 arriving every week in Dadaab on the border between Somalia and Kenya.

The threat of disease on already weakened young children is of particular concern and UNICEF is urgently setting up child immunization campaigns. UNICEF, government agencies, NGOs and other UN agencies will be working in the vital areas of foodwater and sanitation in the coming days to ward off a massive emergency.

However funding shortfalls, and in some areas the denial of access, threaten to disrupt these essential services. UNICEF is asking for $31.9 million for the coming three months to provide life-saving support to the millions of affected children and women.

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:
Lisa Szarkowski, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2643, lszarkowski@unicefusa.org
Marci Greenberg, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2464, mgreenberg@unicefusa.org
Lissette Vargas, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2517, lvargas@unicefusa.org