The health and lives of people in the largest Horn of Africa are threatened as the region faces an unprecedented food crisis. To carry out urgent, life-saving work, WHO is today launching a funding appeal for $123.7 million.
Over 80 million people in the 7 countries comprising the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda – are estimated to be food insecure, with over 37.5 million people classified as IPC Stage 3, a crisis stage where people have to sell their possessions to feed themselves and their families and where malnutrition is widespread.
Driven by conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, this region has become a hunger hotspot with catastrophic consequences for the health and lives of its people.
“Hunger is a direct threat to the health and survival of millions of people in the greater Horn of Africa, but it also weakens the body’s defenses and opens the door to disease,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “WHO is asking the international community to support our work on the ground by responding to this dual threat, providing treatment for malnourished people and protecting them against infectious diseases.”
The funds will go towards urgent measures to protect lives, including increasing countries’ capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks, purchasing and securing supplies of life-saving medicines and equipment, identifying and filling gaps in healthcare provisions and providing treatment to sick and severely malnourished children.
With the upcoming rainy season expected to fail, the situation is worsening. There are already reports of avoidable deaths among children and women during childbirth. The risk of trauma and injury is high as violence, including gender-based violence, is on the rise. There are outbreaks of measles in 6 of the 7 countries, against a background of low vaccination coverage. Countries are simultaneously battling outbreaks of cholera and meningitis as sanitary conditions deteriorate, with clean water becoming scarce and people leaving home on foot to find food, water and pasture for their animals.
The region already has around 4.2 million refugees and asylum seekers, with this number expected to rise as more people are forced from their homes. When on the streets, communities find it harder to access health care, a service already inadequate after years of underinvestment and conflict.
“Making sure people have enough to eat is essential. Ensuring they have safe water is essential. But in situations like this, access to basic health services is also essential,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. “Services such as therapeutic nutrition programs, primary health care, immunization, safe childbirth and mother and child services can be the difference between life and death for those caught in these dire circumstances.”
WHO already has releasing US$16.5 million from the Emergency Contingency Fund to ensure people have access to health services, treat sick children with severe malnutrition, and prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
WHO thanks its donors who make this life-saving work possible.
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