In two months, there has been a rapid rise in food-insecure children in the Horn of Africa, pushing the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) to revise its budgetary requirements up by 52%.
In a statement, Unicef said: “Between February and April, the number of children facing the impact of drought including acute hunger, malnutrition, and thirst increased from 7.25 million to at least 10 million.”
As such, Unicef needed R3.75 billion instead of the initially projected R1.785 billion. Unfortunately for now, only 20% was funded, the aid agency said.
The key affected areas in the Horn of Africa are Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The biggest and most immediate negative factor was climate change.
Without rain in the next few weeks, it could get worse.
“If rains fail in the coming weeks, this figure will rise to two million,” Unicef said.
Mohamed Fall, Unicef’s regional director for eastern and southern Africa, added that “famine is just around the corner”.
According to UN aid agencies, the climate-induced emergency across the Horn of Africa was the worst drought the region had seen in 40 years.
Three consecutive dry seasons had driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, killed vast swathes of livestock and crops, fuelled malnutrition and increased the risk of disease.
In Somalia, more than 81 000 people are at risk of famine by the end of June if a fourth consecutive rainy season failed, food prices continued to rise sharply and humanitarian assistance was not stepped up.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) had also struggled to raise the required funds for its operations. The organisation appealed for R7 billion for a period of at least six months, but only raised less than 4% of the required amount.
“Our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for East Africa.