Geneva: UN Struggling To Cope With Deepening Crisis In East Africa: UPDATED

12 Jul

Sheik Yare Abdi washes the body of four-year-old Aden Ibrahim in preparation for burial in accordance with Somali tradition, inside the makeshift shelter where Aden's family lives amongst other newly-arrived Somali refugees on the outskirts of Ifo II Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya, Tuesday, July 12, 2011. Doctors were unable to save Aden, who died of diarrhea-related dehydration after four days of inpatient care. U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres said Sunday that drought-ridden Somalia is the "worst humanitarian disaster" in the world, after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. People die here every day, though no one can provide a reliable estimate of the drought deaths.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Sheik Yare Abdi washes the body of four-year-old Aden Ibrahim in preparation for …

Men pray over the mat-wrapped body of 3-year-old Nasro Ahmed Gure, whose parents say died of illnesses related to malnutrition, as they prepare her for burial in an area where newly-arrived Somali refugees have settled on the outskirts of Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya, Tuesday, July 12, 2011. U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres said Sunday that drought-ridden Somalia is the "worst humanitarian disaster" in the world, after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. People die here every day, though no one can provide a reliable estimate of the drought deaths.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Men pray over the mat-wrapped body of 3-year-old Nasro Ahmed Gure, whose parents …

 

GENEVA (AP)U.N. officials sounded the alarm Tuesday about a deepening crisis in East Africa, saying they are struggling to cope with the number of people on the move in the region because of the severe drought and continued fighting in Somalia.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva that the U.N. is unable to say how many people are on the move in East Africa right now but “the prognosis looks very poor indeed at the moment” for helping all of those in dire need.

Edwards said thousands of people, mostly Somalis, are arriving at the Dadaab camp in Kenya alone each week.

The World Health Organization said children are at particular risk, with child malnutrition rates rising steeply in recent months. The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said 65,000 children in Kenya alone are at acute risk of dying.

World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran said the drought has left millions hungry, farmers at risk of losing their livelihoods and the lives of hundreds of thousands of children at risk.

She said WFP is urgently scaling up food deliveries, but the agency must come up with $189 million more in donations to cover the $477 million that it needs to provide the help that is required in the Horn of Africa.

Shamsul Bari, the U.N.’s independent expert on human rights in Somalia, said in a statement Tuesday that the situation is “markedly worse” than in March, when he complained the world was slow to react, and that thousands of Somalis are fleeing to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti every day.

Bari warned that nations must immediately step in to provide broad assistance or millions of people will starve to death in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Somalis are experiencing “the most acute humanitarian tragedy in the world today,” Bari said, because of violence and severe drought.

Olivier De Schutter, the U.N.’s special investigator on the right to food, said 10 million in northern Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan are at immediate risk of starvation because of the worst regional drought in 60 years.

NEWS UPDATE:

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres walks at the Dagahaley camp, near the Kenya-Somalia border

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres walks at the Dagahaley camp, …

Internally displaced Somalis receive grains and cooking oil from Organization of Islamic Co-Operation South of Somalia's capital Mogadishu

Internally displaced Somalis receive grains and cooking oil from Organization of …

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations said on Tuesday it was struggling to keep up with an exodus of hungry Somali refugees and many emaciated children were dying of malnutrition along the way or after arriving in neighboring countries.

More than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa now need assistance to survive the crisis sparked by the worst drought in decades, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Since the start of July alone, more than 11,000 people also fleeing intensified fighting in Somalia have arrived in Ethiopia and more than 8,600 in Kenya, the U.N. refugee agency said. Kenya’s Dadaab camps are overflowing with 380,000 refugees.

“We’re in a situation where we are struggling to keep pace with the sheer volume of arrivals at the moment,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees(UNHCR), told a news briefing upon return from Kenya.

Many Somalis are trying to escape heavy fighting between government forces and al Shabaab rebels and food prices that have quadrupled in recent months due to severe drought, he said. “The prognosis looks very poor indeed at the moment.”

“You have many cases we’re seeing in which people arrive in such an emaciated state and young children in particular that they don’t survive even after reaching these camps,” he said.

Somali refugees seeking shelter in Kenya are the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable in the world, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday in Nairobi.

Ban, speaking to reporters in New York on Tuesday, called for preventing the crisis from deepening: “The human cost of this crisis is catastrophic.”

U.N. aid agencies have appealed for $1.6 billion to finance life-saving programs in the region, but only received half that amount to date, he said.

TIME OF THE ESSENCE

“As this devastating drought deepens, time is of the essence,” Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP), said in a statement appealing for funding for its $477 million programme in the Horn of Africa.

The lives of half a million children in the region are at risk, the U.N. Children’s Fund said last week.

“The number of children severely acute malnourished, and that means at risk of death, in Kenya is 65,000 right now,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said on Tuesday.

In Somalia, child health is already among the poorest in the world, according to the World Health Organization. About one in 11 babies die before their first birthday and one in seven before his or her fifth birthday, the WHO says.

Outbreaks of measles and cholera have already been reported in Djibouti and Ethiopia, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said, quoting WHO officials on the ground, but there were no figures.

Cholera, endemic in Somalia, is feared to be spreading due to poor sanitation and mass movement within the country, including people arriving in the capital Mogadishu, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of children are to be vaccinated along the Somali-Kenyan border and in the Dadaab camps to protect them from diseases including polio and measles, Jasarevic said.

(Editing by Alison Williams

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