Addis Ababa, April 28, 2022 – Following a four-day visit to Ethiopia, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell urged the international community to immediately step up support to avert a humanitarian catastrophe caused by drought in Ethiopia and the rest of the Horn of Africa.
Children are forced to drink contaminated water
“ The impact of the drought in Ethiopia is devastating “She said Catherine Russel. “ In the Somali region, one of the areas most affected by the country’s drought, I met children and families who have literally lost everything. Their cattle are dead and therefore they have no source of income. They cannot feed their children and travel in search of food and water. We need to reach these families now before it’s too late “.
Due to three consecutive seasons of failed rains, four countries in the Horn of Africa are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. In total, 10 million children in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of urgent help to save their lives.
The drought is aggravating the malnutrition of children and their families at an alarming rate. In total, 1.7 million children suffer from severe malnutrition in the subregion. In Ethiopia, admission rates for treatment of acute malnutrition in children under the age of 5 in drought-affected areas were 15% higher in February 2022 than in February 2021.
“ Not only are we facing a crisis of malnutrition, but the lack of clean water is further aggravating the situation for children and women. “She said Catherine Russel. “ Children are forced to drink contaminated water, which puts them at risk for cholera and other deadly diseases. In the Somali region, we have received reports of overs 1 000 case of measles, with 16 confirmed deaths “.
Drought can increase child marriage by 51%
But it’s not just malnutrition and disease that threaten children’s lives. More than 600,000 children in drought-affected areas have dropped out of school due to the drought. Schools are closed due to lack of water and many children drop out of school because they have to travel long distances to find food and water or to care for other children while their guardians try to find water for their families and livestock.
“ Long-distance travel exposes children to many risks, including early marriage “said the Executive Director of UNICEF. “ Child marriage often escalates in times of drought, with families marrying their daughters in the hope that they will be better nurtured and protected, as well as to gain gifts. In some areas of Ethiopia affected by drought, we saw an increase of 51 % early marriages “.
Behind every statistic there is a child
In response, UNICEF Ethiopia is targeting approximately 3.4 million people, including 1.4 million children, as part of our immediate response. UNICEF is rehabilitating and installing wells, providing emergency water in trucks, treating severely malnourished children and providing education and child protection support. UNICEF is also investing in solar-powered and climate-resilient water supply systems for long-term sustainable solutions.
“ While we appreciate the generous support of donors, we need to do more to save the lives of millions of children “, She said Catherine Russel. “ We have to remember that behind every statistic there is a child who has the same hopes and dreams as children all over the world and the same right to reach their full potential “.
The Executive Director of UNICEF he also met with government officials, including Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zwede and Deputy Prime Minister And Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen. During these two meetings, Catherine Russel discussed the long-standing partnership between UNICEF and the government, as well as ways to strengthen the joint response to drought and invest in building resilience.