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1mn children severely malnourished in Africa: UNICEF

17 February 2016 16:45


The UN children’s agency says nearly one million children across eastern and southern Africa are suffering from “severe acute malnutrition” as a result of a severe drought that is threatening millions more.

On Wednesday, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, regional director of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for east and southern Africa, warned that children in the region were suffering from extreme hunger, worsening food and water shortages and growing prices.

The UNICEF official called for a quick response to the current “unprecedented situation” caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, described as a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific.

“El Nino… will wane, but the cost to children – many who were already living hand-to-mouth – will be felt for years to come,” Gharagozloo-Pakkala said, warning that the survival of hundreds of thousands of children depended “on action taken today.”

Meanwhile, UNICEF’s regional emergency advisor, Megan Gilgan, also said that the situation is expected to worsen throughout 2016 and into next year.

UNICEF is calling for humanitarian assistance of $87 million for Ethiopia, $26 million for Angola, and $15 million for Somalia. The agency has only received 15 percent of a total of $155 million it has appealed for.

The number of people in need of food assistance in Ethiopia alone is expected to reach anywhere from 10 to 18 million this year. Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and most countries in southern Africa have declared drought emergencies while Malawi is also facing its worst food crisis in one decade.

The World Food Program (WFP) warned on February 15 that about 49 million people were at risk of being affected by drought in southern Africa, adding that 14 million people were already facing hunger in the region.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) predicted last month that 60 million people across Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and Latin America would be affected by El Nino.

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