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Horn of Africa crisis one year on – Famine reversed, countless lives saved, but situation of millions of women and children still grave


TORONTO, July 20, 2012 - A year ago today, the Horn of Africa crisis reached a boiling point when the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia. The extraordinary international support – including $140 million from Canada - coupled with favourable rains helped to save countless lives and reverse the famine.

“We are grateful to the thousands of generous Canadians who supported UNICEF’s work reaching millions of children and their families across the Horn of Africa last year,” says UNICEF Canada’s President and CEO David Morley. “But the emergency is not over. We continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable children and their families while working closely with communities to strengthen their resistance to future shocks.”  

Eight million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are still in need of humanitarian aid. Children, in particular, are threatened by a combination of poverty, insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.

In total UNICEF raised US$396 million last year to expand both its emergency and development work in drought-stricken parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, where more than 13 million people were in need.

During the last half of 2011, UNICEF delivered 63,000 metric tonnes of humanitarian supplies - half of these were supplementary and therapeutic food. To date, nearly one million children have been treated for malnutrition across the region.

To further build resilience, disaster risk reduction is now being integrated into UNICEF’s emergency and development programmes. Basic services for health, nutrition, sanitation and education at the community level are being strengthened. UNICEF is also working with partners to strengthen safety nets for vulnerable families using cash transfers.

With a third of the population, or 2.5 million people, still in need of emergency assistance, Somalia remains the worst affected country. In some regions of Southern Somalia, one in five children is suffering from life-threatening acute malnutrition. Nearly 900,000 children are suffering from malnutrition across the region.

Short-term emergency assistance, although crucial, will not prevent future crises. Drawing inspirations from communities’ own responses and coping strategies, UNICEF has been increasingly working over the years on long-term interventions to build resilience and address the needs of the most vulnerable.

“Traditional coping mechanisms are being stretched to the limit for many communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Elhadj As Sy. “The cycle of crises must be broken through new means of supporting communities to withstand and recover better from disaster.

“We need to preserve our hard-won gains, and invest in children today to prevent similar crises from happening again in the future.”

UNICEF has fully programmed and committed the generous funding received for the Horn of Africa crisis in 2011.  To continue its ongoing relief efforts, as well as invest in resilience-building in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, UNICEF needs a total of US $273 million for 2012. As of 12 July 2012, 33 per cent of the funds had been received. 

Canadians can help to provide life-saving aid and prevent similar crises by visiting


UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230,
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806,