STORY: Health Crisis Horn of Africa - WHO
TRT: 1 min 53s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 10 March 2023 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Headline: 129,000 people in South Sudan and Somalia are “staring death in the eyes”, according to the World Health Organization
Millions in the greater Horn of Africa are facing acute hunger as the region struggles with one of the worst droughts in recent decades with 129, 000 people - out of which 96,000 in Somalia and 33,000 in South Sudan - confronting starvation, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are particularly affected by the dire food insecurity and health crisis. 48 million people are facing crisis levels of food insecurity, meaning families are skipping meals and are likely to have depleted their savings.
“We are seeing a serious surge in disease outbreaks and the highest number of malnourished children in years, and all this against the backdrop of a deteriorating outlook in terms of food insecurity,” said Liesbeth Aelbrecht, WHO Incident Manager, speaking on Zoom from Nairobi to journalists at the United Nations in Geneva.
As families face severe food insecurity, many have left their homes in search of food and water, and pasture for animals. According to WHO, large-scale displacement is often accompanied by a deterioration in hygiene and sanitation and the outbreaks of infectious diseases.
All seven countries are battling measles outbreaks while there are cholera outbreaks in four countries. Malaria has been particularly serious in Sudan were more than 330,000 cases and 262 deaths were reported in the first 6 weeks this year. Somalia and Sudan reported dengue outbreaks.
WHO is concerned about outbreaks of infectious diseases, especially when combined with low existing vaccination coverage and health service availability.
“Almost 12 million children under the age of 5 are projected to be malnourished in this region,” so Ms. Aelbrecht. She added that “this is a region that hosts a large number of refugees, it has accumulated millions of IDPs over the years. But on top of that, today we see more than 2 million drought induced displaced. So, these are really people who have fled their homes looking for water, for humanitarian assistance”.
Most parts of the region are battling the worst drought in at least 40 years while other parts have been affected by flooding, leading to widespread hunger.
With projections of another below average rainy season in March till May, the crisis is foreseen to continue.
64 per cent of suspected meningitis cases in Ethiopia were reported from the drought affected regions.
“The frequency of these disease outbreaks can be directly linked to these extreme weather events and to climate change,” said Ms. Aelbrecht. “I personally want to witness, I have been working on and off to this region for almost 25 years now, and in terms of accumulated emergencies, this is as bad as I have ever seen it”.
According to WHO, nutritional deficiencies make people increasingly vulnerable to disease. This is particularly true for children, for whom the combination of malnutrition and disease can prove fatal.
“Malnutrition in combination with disease are often a deadly cocktail. You know, for example, a malnourished child that gets measles is much more likely to die,” said WHO’s Incident Manager.
WHO is asking for USD 178 million for 2023 to carry out live-saving work.