More than 7 million children under the age of 5 in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are currently malnourished and are in need of urgent nutrition support according to UNICEF. In addition over 1.9 million children are at risk of dying from severe malnutrition.
This has been occasioned by the drought that has been termed as ‘the worst in 40 years’ which led to vulnerable communities losing cattle, crops, and entire livelihoods over the past three years of failed rains.
While the rains have brought some reprieve, it has also led to floods, leading to further displacement, increased risk of disease, livestock loss, and crop damage.
The flooding has deepened the vulnerability of populations already highly affected by the drought as the areas most affected by flooding and drought overlap.
As a consequence, the number of severely malnourished children seeking treatment in the first quarter of this year remains much higher than last year, and will likely remain high for quite a while.
On top of nutrition needs, extreme weather, insecurity, and scarcity have also had devastating consequences for women and children, worsening the risk of gender-based violence (GBV), sexual exploitation, and abuse.
Over the past 3 years, communities have been forced to take extreme measures to survive, with millions of children and families leaving their homes out of pure desperation in search of food and water. This crisis has deprived children of the essentials of childhood – having enough to eat, a home, safe water, and going to school.
In 2022, UNICEF and partners reached more than 2 million children and women in the Horn of Africa with essential life-saving health care services; provided services for the prevention of malnutrition to over 30 million children and mothers; treated almost 1.3 million children under 5 for severe acute malnutrition.
This year, UNICEF is appealing for US$759 million to provide life-saving support to 16.6 million people — including 12.2 million children — in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, a 39 percent increase compared to 2022.