Horn of Africa's children at risk from triple threat – UNICEF

8 May 2009 – The lives of millions of children in the Horn of Africa are being threatened by chronic food insecurity, conflict and political instability, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today.

Nearly 20 million people, including four million children under the age of five, are already in need of emergency relief assistance, representing a significant rise over last September’s figure of 14 million, the agency said in a news release.

“Over the last few months we have witnessed a steady increase in the numbers of children suffering from acute malnutrition, which means more children are at risk of death and disease,” said Dorothy Rozga, UNICEF’s Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“We are witnessing an all too familiar tragedy unfolding, and unless we act with much greater urgency the situation for children can only get worse,” she warned.

The agency said that contributing to the emergency is a combination of erratic weather patterns, the global economic crisis and heightened conflict and insecurity, including the hijacking of ships off the Somali coast.

Data indicates growing numbers of children suffering from acute malnutrition, a condition which if not treated quickly can lead to death. In addition, access to safe water and sanitation is extremely limited in the region, making it highly susceptible to outbreaks of waterborne disease.

UNICEF and its partners are seeking to boost aid to the most vulnerable, including health care, access to safe water and sanitation and treatment for malnutrition.

The agency noted that, so far this year, it has received less than 10 per cent of its projected emergency funding requirements of some $178 million for the Horn of Africa, which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

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