‘Hundreds of thousands’ of children face death Horn

2011-07-22 13:59

Close to three-quarters of a million children will soon die in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa region if they do not receive urgent food and medical supplies, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned.

In total, more than 2.2 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are estimated to be acutely malnourished, Unicef said in a statement issued by its Nairobi and Geneva offices.

“With famine now declared in two regions of Southern Somalia, and malnutrition rates at emergency levels in arid and semi-arid regions across the Horn of Africa, almost 720 000 children are at risk of death without urgent assistance.”

Unicef supply division director Shanelle Horn said her organisation was gearing up on a “massive scale” to deliver urgently needed food and medicine.

“If we are to save lives, we need to act now – to bring in massive quantities of medicines, vaccines, nutrition supplies into the region as quickly as we are able and then get them out to the children who need it most,” she said.

Supplies in the region had already been sent to children in remote, drought-affected communities.

So far this month, Unicef had delivered 1 300 tons of life-saving supplies to some of the hardest-hit areas in southern Somalia, including enough therapeutic supplies to treat over 66 000 malnourished children.

“Unicef will expand supplementary feeding to reach 240 000 children and expand as quickly as is possible to reach more children and their families.

“Insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria and essential medicines, including vaccines, are being airlifted to support massive vaccination campaigns that will be conducted over the coming weeks to prevent the outbreak of disease.”

Unicef estimates it will need $100 million (R676.5 million) over the next six months for a massive scale-up of operations to reach children in the drought-affected areas with emergency and preventative assistance.

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