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UN warn risk of mass death from starvation looms in Horn of Africa

by David Musyoka NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency on Tuesday warned that the risk of mass deaths from starvation among the people of Horn of Africa, Nigeria and Yemen is increasing amid severe drought.

The UNHCR also warned that a repeat of the Horn of Africa drought of 2011 which cost more than 260,000 lives, more than half of these children aged below five, must be avoided at all costs.

"This warning is in light of droughts that are also affecting many neighboring countries and a funding shortfall that has become so severe that an avoidable humanitarian crisis in the region, possibly worse than that of 2011, is fast becoming an inevitability," the UN agency said in a statement.

According to the UNHCR, already displacement is rising, forcing it to upgrade the agency’s displacement estimates for 2017.

It said consecutive harvests have failed, conflict in South Sudan coupled with drought is leading to famine and outflows of refugees, insecurity in Somalia is leading to rising internal displacement, and rates of malnutrition are high, especially among children and lactating mothers.

The UN agency said internal displacement dynamics in Somalia are shifting too, adding that of the half a million people displaced since November 2016, 278,000 were displaced in the first quarter of 2017.

"More than 72,000 of these have moved to the capital Mogadishu.

"Some 69,000 others have headed to Baidoa in the country’s southwest.

"Somalia continues to see a complex situation of both outflows and returns (mainly from Yemen)," it said.

UNHCR said a further 1 million people are now on the brink of famine in parts of South Sudan, where UN agencies warned in February that fighting, insecurity, lack of access to aid and collapsing economy had left 100,000 people facing starvation.

The UN agency said in total some 20 million people in the Horn of Africa countries, Nigeria and Yemen are in areas affected by drought, 4.2 million of whom are refugees.

"In Sudan, for example, where our initial estimate was for 60,000 arrivals from South Sudan this year, we are in the process of revising the expected total upwards to 180,000.

"Similarly in Uganda we are revising planning from 300,000 displaced to 400,000," it said.

In the Dollo Ado area of southeast Ethiopia for example, acute malnutrition rates among newly arriving Somali refugee children aged between 6 months and five years are now running at 50-79 percent, said the UNHCR.

The agency also said children account for the majority of refugees (62 per cent, for instance, in the case of refugees fleeing South Sudan) and in common with other refugees nearly all are dependent on food assistance via our sister-agency WFP.

"With no money to buy food, rations however are being cut. In Djibouti rations have been cut by 12 per cent, in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda by between 20 and 50 per cent, and in Uganda by up to 75 per cent," UNHCR said.

It said many refugees are without full access to livelihoods and agriculture or food production and their ability to take matters into their own hands and help themselves is limited.

UNHCR said some 175,000 students in drought-hit areas in Kenya have stopped attending school while almost 600 schools have closed in Ethiopia.

"In all, some five million children could in the coming weeks and months see their educations being disrupted," UNHCR said.

In Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with almost 19 million people in need of humanitarian help, around 17 million people are food insecure.

UNHCR said the situation is particularly bad in parts of northern Nigeria where seven million people are now struggling with food insecurity and need help.


11 million people in urgent food need in drought-hit Northeast Africa: UN agencies

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- Some 11 million people are in urgent need of food assistance in drought-plagued Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, regional representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) said on Tuesday.

"In the Horn of Africa, we have a severe drought that’s affecting three countries, primarily, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia and in these three countries we see that 11 million people are in need of urgent assistance," WFP Regional Director for Eastern and Central Africa Valerie Guarnieri told reporters at UNICEF House, across the street from UN headquarters in New York.

She added there were famine conditions affecting 100,000 people, including 20,000 children, in two counties of conflict-stricken South Sudan.

"South Sudan is not directly affected by the drought except for a slice of it, but we have a large scale crisis in South Sudan, that’s been going on for some time, since the civil war broke out in December 2013," Guarnieri said.

Leila Pakkala, UNICEF regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, who hosted the briefing, said that in Somalia early numbers show an increasing number of children suffering cholera or acute watery diarrhoea (AWD).

Such "Deadly combinations of cholera and other illnesses combined with severe acute malnutrition" killed so many children in the famine of 2011, she said.

"We know that children don’t die just because of a lack of food," she said.

"They die because they are drinking contaminated water.

"They are missing out on their vaccinations.

"They don’t have access to health care and they are much more prone to sickness and disease such as measles, malaria, diarrhoea and as we are seeing, cholera."

"The situation in Somalia is further exacerbated by the large displacements (of families) that we are seeing, families on move not just in Somalia but also in Ethiopia."

People in the region are moving en masse.

More than 440,000 people have been displaced inside Somalia since November 2016, adding to the existing 1.1 million already displaced, UNICEF said.

In Ethiopia, upwards of 350,000 people are currently in temporary resettlement sites due to drought, and in South Sudan the displaced population is at 1.9 million in total, with another 1.6 million people in neighbouring countries, of which 50 percent are women and children, the agency said.

Pakkala said that with such displacement children particularly face problems beyond the need of food and water.

"Children are at risk from and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and separation from their family members," she said.

"We’ve seen signs of increased gender-based violence in Somalia and South Sudan and we are now focusing on making sure that as communities are moving children do not get separated, particularly as they are moving across borders."

Both UNICEF and WFP have been pleading for funding to aid victims in the region.

However, in a related matter, as an indication of how slow contributions have been made to aid victims, Stephane Dujarric, the UN spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that of the 4.4 billion U.S. dollars UN relief organizations have been seeking this year for famine and conflict victims in the "prioritized area" of Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, donors have provided only 984-million U.S. dollars—or only 21 percent.

Cholera outbreak kills 85 in Somalia autonomous regions

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- An outbreak of cholera/ acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland has killed over 85 people, a global charity said Wednesday.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said 28 people were killed in the last ten days and 167 others hospitalized in Somaliland alone.

In neighboring Puntland, more than 1,600 cases of cholera/AWD with 57 deaths have been recorded since January, the charity said in a statement.

Julie Hall, IFRC Director of Health, said during the 2011 famine in Somalia, tens of thousands of people suffering from hunger died from preventable and treatable diseases like diarrhoea.

"What often stands between hunger and death is disease.

"We must move quickly to stop the spread of disease and provide those affected with treatment.

"Diseases haunt those who are hungry—we can fight this," said Hall.

The charity said the outbreak has overwhelmed remote communities in drought-ravaged region.

More than 411 cases of cholera/ AWD have been reported in Somaliland since the beginning of April.

The vulnerable children and adults, already struggling to cope with malnutrition and food insecurity caused in large part by the failure of 2016’s two rainy seasons, were struck down by the deadly disease after drinking contaminated water.

"This outbreak is frightening, as the people of Somaliland are already weakened by the drought and by lack of food," said Abdirasaq Ali Duran, Somaliland Tracing Assistant of Somali Red Crescent Society at Buhodle sub-branch.

IFRC said it was preparing to expand its support to the Somali Red Crescent Society, building on its existing emergency operation as part of the life-saving efforts.

The outbreak has come amid food crisis in Somalia that is growing more serious by the day with over 6.2 million people in need urgent humanitarian assistance, 2.9 million people facing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity, and 363,000 children already suffering from acute malnutrition.


Severe Drought has Displaced 536,000 Somalis in Five months

FOCUS: Severe Drought in Somalia Endangers 300,000 Children




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