These Children Are Below 5 Years, And Know What, They Are Dying

Nairobi, 2 June 2011 – The latest drought, in combination with spiraling fuel and food prices, has further deteriorated the nutritional status of children.

The crisis has led to a sharp increase in the number of malnourished children. The highest percentage can be found in southern Somalia and northern Kenya, where one in four children is acutely malnourished.

These children are facing a significantly higher risk of dying, and when they survive, their physical and social development will be hampered.

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These Children, All Under 5 Years, Are Dying

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Unicef Communication

More than 1.8 million children under the age of five are now in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa.

The latest drought, in combination with spiraling fuel and food prices, has further deteriorated the nutritional status of children. “Beyond our emergency response, we have to strengthen children’s and their families’ resilience to help them cope better with the recurrent drought situations in the region,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Elhadj As Sy.

“In addition to short term food, water and nutritional support there is a need for more effective policy, programmatic and governance actions to bolster populations within these difficult livelihood environments.

The effects of climate change are increasingly felt in the region, and it is particularly the children who bear the brunt.”

The most affected areas of this latest drought are in central and southern Somalia, southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti, northern and eastern Kenya as well as parts of Uganda.

The drought in the Horn has been attributed to the effects of the “La Niña” atmospheric phenomenon, the strongest in a century, which already reduced the level of precipitation during the last rainy season at the end of 2010.

Although late rains in May have brought temporary relief to some of these areas by improving access to water and pasture, the deeper impact on household income, food security and child nutrition and health remains serious.

Recovery in these areas will require a continuation of extended rains for environmental rehabilitation, well-targeted food and non-food relief assistance and continued child and maternal health outreach services.

The current total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia stands at 3.2 million.

In both Somalia and north-eastern Kenya some 2.4 million people are facing an acute food and livelihood crisis.

Another 670,000people are affected in northern Uganda and 120,000 in Djibouti, bringing the total number of people in these countries who need help in terms of nutrition, health and water to 8.8 million.

The crisis led to a sharp increase in the number of malnourished children. The highest percentage can be found in southern Somalia and northern Kenya, where one in four children is acutely malnourished.

This is far above the emergency level of 15 per cent as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

These children are facing a significantly higher risk of dying, and when they survive, their physical and social development will be hampered.

In central and south Somalia, 38 per cent of children already dropped out of school as a consequence of the drought, which is further exacerbated by the ongoing conflict.

Every month, more than 10,000 refugees from Somalia arrive in the Dadaab camp across the border in Kenya, among them exceptionally high numbers of severely malnourished children.

Throughout northern Kenya, outside of the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, some 33,000 children below five years of age are currently affected by severe acute malnutrition.

This figure is likely to increase further. Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has declared the drought a national disaster.

“Pastoralist populations and their livestock are particularly affected by such climate shocks and the lack of security.

This latest drought highlights the continuing need for greater convergence in the efforts of government, supported by the UN, NGOs and community based organizations to improve the information on the situation of children in pastoralist areas so that we can sharpen our support for these groups,” said Elhadj As Sy.

It is estimated that some 15 per cent of the total population of 152 million people in the Horn of Africa live in a nomadic or pastoralist household.

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2 Responses

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