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Field updates: Emergency assistance continues in the Horn of Africa

Australians have donated more than $600,000 to ChildFund Australia to aid operations in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa. This support has helped ensure malnourished children receive food, water and life-saving medical support through childcare centres that have been transformed into emergency food distribution facilities.

The region will continue to rely on international aid for some months to come, as the November rains are expected to be insufficient. ChildFund staff in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have provided the following field updates on the current situation in each country.

ETHIOPIA – New crops are coming but food insecurity remains high

In the Siraro district, the nutritional status of children is showing signs of improvement as a result of the emergency food distribution by various organisations, including ChildFund Ethiopia. In addition, maize, vegetable and bean crops are now growing. One concern, though, is that new crops coming up will be consumed prematurely, reducing yield.

ChildFund Ethiopia has begun a second round of relief food distribution, transporting 247.5 metric tons of maize, 24.75 metric tons of legumes, 82.5 metric tons of cooking oil and 23.45 metric tons of nutritious porridge mix to Siraro. The food will be distributed to 16,500 people, including 4,300 children under 5 and more than 900 pregnant and nursing mothers.

Further interventions likely will be needed, including rehabilitating water points and pastures and replenishing livestock. The needs will be established in consultation with the community association and local authorities.

In the Sodo/Buee district, more than 22,000 people are experiencing food shortages. Working with our local partners, ChildFund is scaling up distribution of supplementary food for malnourished children and mothers who are identified as needing additional support.

There are reports of pest damage to some crops in this district. Thus there is concern that crop production may fall below estimates, further aggravating the food deficit during the course of the year.

KENYA – Preparing for long-duration drought

The number of extremely food-insecure people has increased from 2.4 million to 3.75 million Kenyans in the past seven months. Food prices in local markets reached record levels in July, diminishing families’ purchasing power. At the end of August, the World Food Program increased its targeted support to include moderately malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, by providing cooking oil and ready-to-use supplementary foods.

The water supply situation in all institutions and communities in Marsabit Central, including the town and the district hospital, remains extremely critical. None of the 36 schools and 11 health facilities in Marsabit Central has a reliable source of water nearby. They depend entirely on trucked water, mostly from overstretched sources.

ChildFund Kenya’s emergency response is targeting 50,000 children aged 5 and younger, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers in the nine affected areas where ChildFund works. We are reaching this population through already existing Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) centres. Current interventions are focusing on three key areas:

  • Nutrition: Providing supplementary food at ECCD centres and nutrition education to parents.
  • Water and sanitation: Improving access to water in the arid and semi-arid areas through trucking of potable water and providing water vessels and water treatment chemicals. To reduce disease risk, ChildFund is also providing hygiene education to all caregivers of children.
  • Health: Continuously monitoring children’s nutritional status, providing vitamin A and iron supplements, deworming and treating minor illnesses. Referring cases that require further attention.

UGANDA – Flash flooding and landslides damage newly planted crops

Although the drought has not affected Uganda as severely as neighbouring countries, communities are worried about future food supplies, following heavy rains that caused flooding in Butaleja district and landslides in Sironko and Bulambuli districts.

The floods destroyed food crops and washed away recently planted seeds. Pit latrines also flooded and contaminated the water sources, leaving residents with water unsafe for human consumption. This has created fertile ground for diseases such as malaria and epidemics like diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera. The most affected community is Doho community, with close to 1,400 households in great need of safe water and help with restarting crops.

ChildFund is now working with communities in Uganda to plan for possible food shortages. Community members and parents are considering starting up ECCD centres early in October so young children will have at least one meal a day.

In the longer term, ChildFund may support parents in planting potato vines near ECCD centres to supplement food for the children. A primary goal is to sensitise households to the need to store food for hard times ahead and to take extra care with sanitation and hygiene to prevent disease.

To help support ChildFund’s work in the Horn of Africa, please make a donation today.

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