Unicef Chief Arrives in East Africa to Boost Response to Crisis

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) arrived in Kenya today to help strengthen the response by UN agencies and partners to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa that is affecting millions of people.

Executive Director Anthony Lake will meet with UN agencies and partners tomorrow in the capital, Nairobi, to discuss the crisis in the region, which is being fuelled by drought, soaring food prices and conflict in Somalia, the agency said in a news release.

On Saturday he will travel to Turkana, a district in north-west Kenya where the drought and the rise in food prices have deepened chronic poverty to a point of extreme crisis and malnutrition rates have reached emergency levels.

More than 11 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid across the region. Almost 500,000 children in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are suffering from imminent, life-threatening severe malnutrition. In addition, over 1.6 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, according to UNICEF.

In addition to the thousands of people from Somalia seeking refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya, millions more are living on the brink of extreme poverty and hunger, suffering the consequences of failed rains and the impact of climate change, said the agency.

UNICEF has appealed for $31.8 million to ramp up assistance to the Horn of Africa over the next three months, especially for children, who are suffering the brunt of the crisis. It says the most urgent needs include therapeutic feeding, vitamin supplementation, water and sanitation services, child protection measures and immunization.