Manoocher Deghati, Somalia, 2009. A malnourished child is fed a ready-to-use therapeutic food at a feeding centre in the north-eastern city of Bossaso. (UNICEF)
Saving Children’s Lives in the Horn of Africa
Several years of devastating weather conditions, conflicts and political instability in the Horn of Africa are threatening the well-being and lives of millions of people, most of whom are women and children.
In 2010, despite improvement following favorable long rains, droughts and floods continued to cause crop failure and water shortage, thus jeopardizing food security, weakening health and leaving millions of people in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in need of humanitarian assistance.
Malnutrition is the biggest health- and life-threatening factor in these countries. According to the assessment carried out by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), in Somalia alone, almost 2.4 million people, approximately 32% of the population, are currently in humanitarian and food crisis with about 246,000 children acutely-malnourished.
In addition, political crisis and population displacement in some countries expose children to violence, extreme poverty and child protection violations. Children are also increasingly being denied access to education as a result of school closures due to fighting, displacement of population and other reasons.
Food and Vaccine
The Horn of Africa region has been one of UNICEF’s priorities for humanitarian action for a long time. focuses its long-term programmes and emergency response on addressing the needs of women and children in the region, in particular malnutrition, shortage of water and insufficient sanitation, child health, including prevention and treatment of water-borne diseases, education and child protection.
In the effort to treat malnutrition, hundreds of thousands of children suffering from severe and moderate acute malnutrition are provided with treatment through therapeutic feeding programmes and to nutritional support.
As a result of UNICEF’s assistance in the area of health, children are being immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and polio. UNICEF has supported the governments and collaborated with the partners in response to the cholera outbreaks and other water-borne diseases through the provision of assorted medical supplies for treatment as well as supplies for water purification.
Additionally, UNICEF continues to implement the Child Health Days initiative which, for example in Somalia, has already reached over 80% of children under 5 years and over 60% of women of child-bearing age with a package of essential health and nutrition services such as immunization, de-worming and vitamin A supplementation.
Water and education
Sufficient safe water and adequate sanitation have been made available for drought- or flood-affected people through water tanks and rehabilitation or construction of water systems, construction of latrines, water management at the community level and hygiene education in schools and homes.
Millions of children in these countries get increased access to a formal and non-formal quality education through the rehabilitation of learning spaces, provision of teaching and learning materials and training for teachers. Separate and appropriate hand-washing and latrine facilities accompanied this effort.
Coordinator of International Projects
Finnish Committee for UNICEF
More information on UNICEF’s achievements in 2010 and the humanitarian action planned for the Horn of Africa countries in 2011 can be found in the organization’s 2011 Humanitarian Action for Children Report or on the country offices’ websites.