Malnutrition rates for children climbing as region struggles in midst of drought
Aid agency responding in Kenya, Somalia to improve access to water, provide livestock assets
February 8, 2011, Nairobi--World Vision says years of unrelenting drought in many parts of the region have thrown the Horn of Africa into a humanitarian crisis that is threatening the lives of millions of families living in the region, including more than 6 million people in Kenya and Somalia. Children under five are particularly vulnerable. Lack of food, malnutrition, access to water, and the general health of livestock are key concerns for the international relief agency.
“In Somalia alone, water prices have increased as much as 300 percent in the past two months, and families are selling their assets and going into debt just to get clean water and food for their families,” said Chris Smoot, Program Director for World Vision in Somalia. “With these kinds of conditions, we are likely to see an increase in malnutrition rates and epidemic diseases which will further complicate an already dangerous situation.”
Inconsistent rains over the past year have resulted in severe drought for both pastoralists and urban communities. In Somalia’s Puntland, many families are suffering from the seventh consecutive failed rainy season. Most of the water catchments have dried up, forcing people and animals to consume water from the same areas and increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. As drought conditions continue, migrating pastoral communities and dying livestock will likely plunge these food-insecure communities into a life-threatening situation. World Vision says these conditions are expected to continue for the next several months.
Prior to this growing crisis, the United Nations estimated that 2.4 million Somalis required emergency assistance as a result of the civil unrest and food insecurity in their country. Adding additional pressure to the situation are the internally displaced people from south-central Somalia who continue to seek refuge in Puntland. Pressure to find jobs and increased needs for pasture, water, and sanitation facilities area putting growing strains on the few existing resources.
“We are particularly concerned about those families struggling in south-central Somalia, the hardest-hit area in the region,” added Smoot. “Right now, those communities have little to no access to humanitarian relief. Each day is a fight to survive, and it will only get worse as this drought continues.”
In Turkana, Kenya and other areas of Ethiopia, World Vision is already responding to the crisis by distributing food rations to communities. In Somalia, World Vision will focus its efforts on Puntland, implementing cash-for-work programs to improve water sources, repairing and constructing water boreholes, distributing goats to pastoral communities, and establishing village and regional level disaster risk-reduction committees to help build the resilience of drought-affected communities.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, visit www.worldvision.org