(PRWEB) July 25, 2012
A year ago today, the crisis in East Africa reached boiling point when the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia. The extraordinary international support coupled with favourable rains helped save countless lives and reverse the famine. However, the crisis is far from over. Eight million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Children, in particular, are threatened by a combination of poverty, insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.
“Thanks to support from generous Australians, we’ve been able to provide life-saving interventions to treat over one million children suffering from malnutrition across the region,” said Dr Norman Gillespie, Chief Executive UNICEF Australia.
“However, progress remains fragile. This was, and continues to be a children’s emergency. An enormous number of lives have been saved but the scale of the disaster has left many children and their families. UNICEF is committed to provide emergency assistance where needed and to work more closely with communities to boost their resilience against future shocks.”
Australians donated over $6.1 million towards UNICEF’s emergency and development work in drought-stricken parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, where more than 13 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance. This included $1 million donated from AusAID in a matching initiative by the Australian Government.
Thanks to this support UNICEF was able to respond to the crisis:
To further build resilience for communities affected, disaster risk reduction is continuing to be integrated into UNICEF’s emergency and development programmes. Strengthening of basic services for health, nutrition, sanitation and education at the community level remains a priority. 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, still in need of emergency assistance, Somalia remains the worst affected country In some regions of the South, one in five children is suffering from life-threatening acute malnutrition.
In Kenya, 2.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, so are 3.2 million people in Ethiopia. Malnutrition continues to be a serious concern. Currently nearly 900,000 children are suffering from malnutrition in the three countries.
The crisis forced thousands of people from their homes and despite the easing of the crisis prompting people to return, more than 626,000 Somali refugees remain in Kenya and Ethiopia. Inside Somalia, more than one million people are internally displaced, nearly 60 per cent of whom are children.
Conflict, instability, lack of continuing rains and continued restricted access for aid agencies pose a major threat to children and their families. There are already indications that the situation could deteriorate in southern Somalia, where acute malnutrition among children under five in some places is nearly twice the emergency threshold.
“Traditional coping mechanisms remain stretched to the limit for many communities,” said Dr Gillespie.
“The cycle of crises must be broken by building capacity and resilience in communities to withstand and recover more quickly from disaster.”
“We need to preserve our hard-won gains, and invest in children today to prevent similar crises from happening again.”
UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realised. It has the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes UNICEF unique among world organisations, and unique among those working with the young. UNICEF works in over 190 countries to promote and protect the rights of children. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, clean water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and HIV. In Australia, UNICEF advocates for the rights of all children to be realised and works to improve public and government support for child rights and international development. UNICEF receives no funding from the UN, but relies on the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.