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Story Photo: Droughts have exhausted coping capacity in the Horn of Africa
Droughts have exhausted coping capacity in the Horn of Africa

15 July 2011 -- In the Horn of Africa, increasingly frequent drought episodes punctuated by ever shorter recovery periods have exhausted the coping capacity of communities in a region where resources and services are already scarce. The resulting depletion of household resources is having a serious impact on the general health and nutritional status of the population.

The vicious cycle of hunger-ill -health-poverty means that fewer resources are dedicated to health care just as health needs increase as a result of poor diet. Lack of water and population displacements, which result in precarious sanitation, further increase the risk of communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and measles have already been reported in Djibouti and Ethiopia. The effects of the drought are also aggravated by weak health care systems, with limited human resources and medical supplies and low immunization coverage.

The areas most severely affected are also those suffering from some of the highest disease burdens in the region. For example, in Somalia, child health is among the worst in the world. Infant mortality is estimated at 88 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality at 142 per 1000. In the first half of 2011, at least three Somali children died of malnutrition every day. In parts of Southern Somalia, one in three children is malnourished.
Main objectives of partners
In the current crisis, the main objective for health partners is to avoid excess mortality and morbidity from malnutrition and communicable diseases among the most severely affected communities in countries affected by the drought.

From 25 to 29 July, the UNICEF and WHO Offices in Kenya and Somalia, with support from the Ministry of Health of Kenya, will begin vaccination campaigns along the Kenya-Somali border and in the Dadaab refugee camps. The vaccination package will cover polio and measles and include vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets. A total of 215 000 children under five are targeted in the Dadaab refugee camps, Fafi and Lagdera districts and the refugees’ migration corridors such as Garissa municipality. Vaccination campaigns are also planned in and around Mogadishu as IDPs are coming in.

WHO and health partners are preparing funding proposals for donors focusing on health assessments, disease surveillance, coordination, logistic support, gap filling, heath systems strengthening and capacity building.

WHO’s emergency health response is severely underfunded. The Organization has received 22% of the funds needed for Somalia, 5% of the funds needed for Djibouti and less than 2% of the funds needed for Kenya. The health sector as a whole is also under-funded, with 25%, 9% and 5% of funds received for Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti respectively.

Source: WHO Release News

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