The United Nations children's agency is launching its global annual appeal for funding for women and children caught in various crises. Within that appeal, the agency called for donors to contribute $303 million to projects in eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, with the bulk going to Ethiopia, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.
UNICEF?s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Elhadj As Sy, told reporters human-made and natural disasters are taking their toll in East and Southern Africa.
"We estimated in 2010 that 17.4 million people in the region were food insecure due to the combination of entrenched poverty on the one hand, drought and conflict," he said.
The agency is asking for $303 million to fund projects in Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
About 80 percent of African funding is earmarked for Ethiopia, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.
In Ethiopia, droughts and flooding compound an already chronic situation of poverty, shortage of safe drinking water, and high dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
"In addition to that, we see in a number of countries in our region - like Somalia, Madagascar, Zimbabwe - where political instability has contributed to the deterioration of the physical infrastructure in the public sector," he added.
This deterioration, said Sy, leads to mothers not being able to access health care, children not getting the essential services they need, and many young people being out of school.
Projects in the eight countries will focus on improving water quality and quantity, health-care, sanitation, and education.
The $303 million is part of the agency?s worldwide appeal for $1.4 billion covering 32 countries.
This is an increase of 21 percent over last year, due primarily to the impacts of unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, the earthquake in Haiti, and hunger across the Sahel.
Displacement and violence in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia have also fueled the need for more funding.
The U.N. children?s agency responds to an average of about 200 emergencies each year.