Should this blog be self-critical of the number of its posts highlighting the food crisis in the Horn of Africa? We don't believe so since the fate of millions is being ignored and neglected by much of the media.
This region has seen years of conflict and displacement. 4.2 million people in the region are refugees, and another 11.1 million are internally displaced. Across the Horn of Africa, families are facing desperate choices to survive as drought, driven by climate change, dries up water sources and kills livestock, and the domino effect of the war in Ukraine exacerbates spiralling food and fuel prices. Somalia alone once imported 92 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, but supply lines are now blocked. Skyrocketing food prices also mean families cannot afford to buy basic staples.
Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in the region, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years. The latest forecasts suggest that there is now a concrete risk that the next rainy season could also fail. Across the region, women and girls in drought-affected areas are having to walk longer distances to access water and other basic resources. In Kenya, women and girls are walking more than three times longer than before, up to 30 km in some locations, according to the Kenya Red Cross.
Over 80 million people in the eastern African region are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families. In South Sudan, over 60% of the population is facing a hunger crisis. Acute malnutrition is high, especially among children. The situation is particularly urgent in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia where a lack of food means that an estimated 7 million children are malnourished, including over 1.7 million who are severely malnourished. Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. 213,000 people now judged to be at risk of famine in Somalia.
"The cost of inaction is high," said Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response. "While the clear priority is to prevent people from starving, we must simultaneously strengthen our health response to prevent disease and save lives. Even one life lost from a vaccine-preventable disease, diarrhoea, or medical complications from malnutrition in today's world is one life too many."
Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are dealing with outbreaks of measles and cholera. All seven countries are malaria-endemic countries. Children are disproportionately affected by malaria, with 80% of malaria deaths in the African region being among those under the age of 5 years.
Four countries -- Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda -- are facing outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis, a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection.
Growing numbers of parents or caregivers are marrying off girls to secure dowries to help support the rest of the family, to have one less mouth to feed, or in an attempt to help the bride enter a better-off household. Girls as young as twelve are being forced into child marriage. In the regions of Ethiopia worst affected by the drought, child marriage has on average more than doubled in the space of one year. The number of children at risk of dropping out of school across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, due to the impact of the crisis, has tripled within three months -- leaving vast numbers of adolescent girls at greater danger of a number of child protection risks, including undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM). The number of children at risk of dropping out of school in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the drought has tripled in the space of three months -- from 1.1. million to an estimated 3.3 million children.