Video remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell during a high-level panel discussion on the drought in the Horn of Africa

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GODE, Ethiopia, APRIL 26, 2022 – “I join you today from the hospital in Gode, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where I saw the ravages of drought.

“Livestock are dying…crop failure…displaced communities in search of food and water…and so many children are suffering.

“The worst climate emergency in 40 years has affected at least 10 million children in the Horn of Africa – and the situation is rapidly deteriorating, especially for severely malnourished children.

“In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, more than 1.7 million children need urgent treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

“If the rains fail again in the coming weeks, that figure will rise to two million.

“The number of people without reliable access to clean, safe water has nearly doubled from 5.6 million to 10.5 million in just three months.

“The specter of famine is once again hovering over the sub-region.

“It is clear that children – especially young children – are most at risk.

“From previous drought emergencies, we have learned the painful lesson that child mortality soars when high levels of malnutrition collide with epidemics and water scarcity.

“With the continuing drought and the growing threat of cholera and measles, children here now face this exact combination of deadly risks.

“If we can’t identify and treat them, many children with severe wasting will die.

“We are witnessing a crisis on the verge of catastrophe.

“But immediate and collective action can avert the worst.

“We saw it in 2017, when the humanitarian community came together to prevent famine, working alongside national governments, NGOs and local communities, with the generous support of international donors, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

“We have to do it again today.

“UNICEF and its partners urgently need $250 million to cover critical needs in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, as well as Eritrea and Djibouti, until the end of the year.

“We are also working with the wider humanitarian community to articulate broader needs and prioritize the most urgent needs to avert famine. The UN’s consolidated drought appeal for Ethiopia stands at 545 million of dollars.

“To save children’s lives and futures, our response must be multi-sectoral, going beyond food security to include WASH, Nutrition, Health, Protection and Education services and support.

“This support must be coupled with investments in resilience building and climate adaptation programs to prepare communities to deal with climate change.

“The crisis here in the Horn of Africa is not making the headlines – but that doesn’t make the threats to children and families any less serious.

“We understand the pressure of different emergencies, including the Ukraine crisis, but we cannot turn our backs on the children of the Horn of Africa.

“It’s not too late to act to avert disaster. But we need the means to do so. And the window is closing as we speak.”

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