Some 11 million people are in urgent need of food assistance in drought-plagued Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, regional representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) said on Tuesday.
“In the Horn of Africa, we have a severe drought that’s affecting three countries, primarily, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia and in these three countries we see that 11 million people are in need of urgent assistance,” WFP Regional Director for Eastern and Central Africa Valerie Guarnieri told reporters at UNICEF House, across the street from UN headquarters in New York.
She added there were famine conditions affecting 100,000 people, including 20,000 children, in two counties of conflict-stricken South Sudan.
“South Sudan is not directly affected by the drought except for a slice of it, but we have a large scale crisis in South Sudan, that’s been going on for some time, since the civil war broke out in December 2013,” Guarnieri said.
Leila Pakkala, UNICEF regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, who hosted the briefing, said that in Somalia early numbers show an increasing number of children suffering cholera or acute watery diarrhoea (AWD).
Such “Deadly combinations of cholera and other illnesses combined with severe acute malnutrition” killed so many children in the famine of 2011, she said.
“We know that children don’t die just because of a lack of food,” she said. “They die because they are drinking contaminated water. They are missing out on their vaccinations. They don’t have access to health care and they are much more prone to sickness and disease such as measles, malaria, diarrhoea and as we are seeing, cholera.”
“The situation in Somalia is further exacerbated by the large displacements (of families) that we are seeing, families on move not just in Somalia but also in Ethiopia.”
People in the region are moving en masse.
More than 440,000 people have been displaced inside Somalia since November 2016, adding to the existing 1.1 million already displaced, UNICEF said.
In Ethiopia, upwards of 350,000 people are currently in temporary resettlement sites due to drought, and in South Sudan the displaced population is at 1.9 million in total, with another 1.6 million people in neighbouring countries, of which 50 percent are women and children, the agency said.
Pakkala said that with such displacement children particularly face problems beyond the need of food and water.
“Children are at risk from and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and separation from their family members,” she said. “We’ve seen signs of increased gender-based violence in Somalia and South Sudan and we are now focusing on making sure that as communities are moving children do not get separated, particularly as they are moving across borders.”
Both UNICEF and WFP have been pleading for funding to aid victims in the region.
However, in a related matter, as an indication of how slow contributions have been made to aid victims, Stephane Dujarric, the UN spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that of the 4.4 billion U.S. dollars UN relief organizations have been seeking this year for famine and conflict victims in the “prioritized area” of Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, donors have provided only 984-million U.S. dollars — or only 21 percent. Enditem