A growing health crisis in the Horn of Africa as acute hunger spreads
The World Health Organization warns of growing health risks in the Horn of Africa as acute hunger spreads there.
World Health Organization Incident Manager for the Horn of Africa, Sophie Maes, says urgent action is needed to slow the health and hunger crisis that is sickening and killing growing numbers of people in the region.
The WHO released $16.5 million from its emergency fund for operations there.
“Due to acute food insecurity, malnutrition rates are increasingly high, and especially children and pregnant and lactating women are very, very vulnerable,” Maes said. “…There is this synergy between malnutrition and disease where malnourished children more easily become sick and sick children malnourished more easily.
The World Food Program warns that 20 million people are at risk of starvation as the drought in the Horn worsens.
Speaking from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Maes says the priority is to ensure everyone has access to food. At the same time, she says it is important that health needs are not overlooked.
She warns that the risk of epidemics is higher due to the lack of drinking water. She says the drought has dried up water sources, forcing people to leave their homes in search of food, water and pasture for their livestock. Therefore, she says, people are more likely to get sick as their living conditions deteriorate.
“And we are seeing a spike in epidemics. We are looking at measles in Djibouti, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Sudan,” Maes said. “Cholera and acute waterborne diarrhea in Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. Meningitis, Hepatitis E, to name a few.
Maes is appealing for international support to help the WHO provide the necessary care for severely malnourished children.
She says it is crucial to respond quickly to outbreaks, to have enough medicine and equipment available and to ensure that children receive the necessary vaccines.