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UNICEF Warns Conditions in Drought-Stricken Horn of Africa Serious


The UN Children's Fund warns the humanitarian situation in the drought-affected countries of the Horn of Africa remains serious despite seasonal rains that have brought relief. UNICEF says child malnutrition rates in some regions are soaring.

The impact of the drought in the Horn of Africa has been most severe in pastoral areas, particularly in Kenya and Somalia. UNICEF Spokesman, Damien Personnaz says malnutrition rates among very young children in those countries as well as in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti have reached emergency levels. "UNICEF has carried out substantial amount of surveys linked to nutrition, basically 50 altogether in five countries, which basically show all the same…Yes, the acute malnutrition rate has increased by15 to 20 percent among the children below six years old in all the five countries, which is a lot," he said.

UNICEF estimates around 200,000 out of about one million children affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Personnaz says the much awaited rains in this parched landscape have brought a measure of relief, but also new problems. "The rains have definitely improved in some places access to clean water. But, in other parts of Somalia and Kenya, we had floods. Rivers have been flooded and the increase of water-borne diseases and malaria has been pretty strong," he said.

Personnaz says the rains are making it more difficult to get international support for humanitarian operations. He says it is difficult for UNICEF and other aid agencies to persuade international donors to give money for drought relief when all they see is green pastures.

He says UNICEF urgently needs $43 million to support special high-protein feeding programs for malnourished children. He says it is essential to provide enough clean water for displaced nomadic people and essential medical supplies for women and children.

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