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UNICEF estimates the lives of over two million children are threatened by the unfolding crisis in the Horn of Africa

2011-07-07

Nairobi/Geneva/New York, 8 July 2011 – UNICEF estimates that over two million young children are malnourished and in need of urgent life-saving actions, if they are to survive conditions in drought-affected  countries in the Horn of Africa. Half a million of those children are facing imminent life-threatening conditions, with long lasting consequences to their physical and mental development.

This crisis is being called the worst for 50 years, in a region familiar with severe drought. Countries most seriously affected are Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Global acute malnutrition rates in Northern Kenya are now above 25 per cent with records reaching as high as nearly 40 per cent in the Turkana district. UNICEF estimates a total of 10 million people are already in need of humanitarian assistance.

High food prices and prolonged drought are worsening an already dire situation for thousands of families in need of food and water. Thousands of families are crossing the border from Somalia as emergency feeding centers are being set up by UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies in neighbouring countries. The refugee situation is growing with some 10,000 arriving every week in Dadaab on the border between Somalia and Kenya.

The threat of disease on already weakened young children is of particular concern and UNICEF is urgently setting up child immunization campaigns. UNICEF, government agencies, NGOs and other UN agencies will be working in the vital areas of water, food and sanitation in the coming days to ward off a massive emergency.

However funding shortfalls, and in some areas the denial of access, threaten to disrupt these essential services. UNICEF is asking for funding in excess of US$ 30 million for the coming three months to provide life-saving support to the millions of affected children and women.

Canadians can support UNICEF's emergency efforts in the Horn of Africa by donating online at www.unicef.ca/hornofafrica or calling 1 800 567-4483.  

Note to editors: Photos and b-roll of the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa available upon request.  

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About UNICEF
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

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