Africa

Nearly 10 million children in Horn of Africa in ‘greatest danger’ due to drought, says UNICEF

UNICEF has sought $250 million to help children facing drought in the region  

 
By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 04 May 2022
Nearly 10 million children in Horn of Africa in ‘greatest danger’ due to drought, says UNICEF Photo: iStock

The number of children across the Horn of Africa in eastern Africa facing the impact of drought has increased to at least 10 million from 7.25 million during February-April 2022, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). 

Parts of the Horn of Africa region experienced severe drought, the worst in 40 years. The crisis was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, desert locusts and now a further surge in food and commodity prices due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological Department and Ethiopia’s Crop Monitor for Early Warning point to a below average monsoon season, warning this could push more people into a desperate situation.  

More than 81,000 children in Somalia are at risk of famine by the end of June if the fourth consecutive rainy season fails, according to UNICEF.

More than 1.7 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia require urgent treatment for severe acute malnutrition, the agency added.

If rains fail in the coming weeks, this figure will rise to 2 million, warned UNICEF.

In Somalia, rising food prices, disease outbreak and lack of clean water threaten to put a shocking 1.2 million children under the age of five at risk of being acutely malnourished by the end of the year, according to Save the Children, the world's leading organisation for children.

Over 14 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya — about half of them children, are already on the verge of starvation — according to Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). 

UNICEF has sought $250 million to help children facing drought in the Horn of Africa.

Three consecutive dry seasons across the Horn of Africa have forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes in search of survival, with their livestock and crops wiped out.

In the past 10 years, the Horn of Africa has endured three severe droughts (2010-2011, 2016-2017 and 2020-2021). 

As many as seven of the last eight rainy seasons since 2015 have produced too little rain or no rain at all, according to Save the Children. The condition has left families, children and entire communities in the area struggling to survive.

Shako Kijala, Save the Children’s regional spokesperson for East and Southern Africa, said: 

Children are always hit hardest by a food crisis, without enough to eat and the right nutritional balance, they are at high risk of malnutrition. Malnutrition leads to stunting, impairs mental and physical development in the long run, increases the risk of other illnesses and ultimately causes death. 

In the past two months across the Horn of Africa, the number of households without reliable access to clean and safe water has almost doubled to 10.5 million, according to UNICEF. The number of people classified as food secure has risen from 9 to 16 million.

The agency said the number of children out of school has remained disturbingly high at 15 million, with an additional 1.1 million children being at risk of dropping out and thousands of schools already lacking access to water.

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