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United Nations Relief Agencies Appeal For 70 Million Dollars To Aid The Horn Of Africa

UN relief agencies have issued an appeal for 70 million dollars to help more than eight million people affected by drought in the Horn of Africa. One of those agencies is UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund. Gordon Weiss is the emergencies communication officer for UNICEF. From New York, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about why the appeal is being made now. “The Horn of Africa has sort of fallen off the radar because rains have fallen, apparently breaking the drought. But that doesn’t tell the full story. There is still a population of about eight million nomadic pastoralists in the Horn of Africa who have lost their herds, the herds upon which they rely for their food and income. And those people are still in a great state of distress, despite the rains having fallen.” Weiss explains how the money would be spent: “The money would go to programs to immediately relieve very basic problems: bringing water to those people where they still don’t have water, bringing children to therapeutic feeding centers and helping about 40,000 children, who are really so badly malnourished at the moment that they face the very real prospect of death in the coming months.” Other issues include education and long-term health programs. Why are the children so vulnerable? Weiss says, “This is a population of children who rely on the herds that their families travel with across the Horn of Africa. And in this particular area, where the drought struck hardest over the last two years – it’s an area about the size of France – people lost about half of their herd. In many places people lost all of their herds. These herds do two things. Firstly, they provide the milk and meat upon which these people depend for their principle diet. And secondly, they provide income. So, when those animals have died they no longer have food and they no longer have the ability to purchase food. So, the children that we’re talking about are the children belonging to the most marginalized families who really have nothing.”