The horn's dilemma: No food, no water, and no place to go
Kenya and Ethiopia are buckling under the weight of thousands of refugees seeking relief from the drought ravaging the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia, facing an influx of starving refugees from neighbouring countries, said on Monday it needed $398-million to help millions of people in need of food aid.
The Horn of Africa region has been hit by one of its worst droughts in decades, which has left millions of people facing starvation.
“It is estimated that a total of 4.5-million people will require humanitarian assistance during the remaining period of the current year from July to December 2011,” Agriculture Minister Mitiku Kassa told reporters.
The figure marks a 40% rise in those needing food aid since April.
On Saturday, the UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos called for long-term solutions to curb the effects of the severe drought in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has also seen an influx of Somalis seeking relief from the harsh drought and food scarcity.
On Friday, the United Nations Children’s Fund said the lives of half a million children in the Horn of Africa were at risk.
High food prices and the driest years since the early 1950s have pushed many poor families in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti into desperate need, Unicef said.
“We have over two million children who are malnourished. Half a million of these children are in a life-threatening condition at this stage—a 50% increase over 2009 figures,” Unicef spokesperson Marixie Mercado said.
Child malnutrition rates in some camps are at least 45%, triple the emergency threshold, Mercado said. Child mortality rates are also very high.
“At one camp in Ethiopia it is above the emergency threshold of four deaths per 10 000 children per day and that is also the case in the Turkana district of Kenya,” she said.
Unicef has appealed for $31.9-million to help treat seriously malnourished children across the region over the next three months. It plans to set up child immunisation campaigns, especially against measles which can be deadly in unvaccinated children, and provide safe water and better sanitation.
Since the start of the year 54 000 Somalis have fled across the border into Ethiopia, with more than 1 700 people crossing daily in recent weeks, piling pressure on makeshift camps that are struggling to handle the inflow.
In neighbouring Kenya, some 1 400 Somalis are arriving every day, of which 80% are women and children. Some refugees are said to have walked up to 30 days to reach the camps, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said.—AFP, Reuters