, NAIROBI, May 8 – The global financial crisis, growing conflict and unpredictable weather patterns are threatening the lives of millions of people in the Horn of Africa, a UN agency said on Friday.
An estimated 19.8 million people, among them four million children, are in need of emergency relief in the region, a rise of nearly 50 percent from 14 million in September, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
"Over the last few months we have witnessed a steady increase in the numbers of children suffering from acute malnutrition… more children are at risk of death and disease," said Dorothy Rozga, the agency’s deputy director for east and southern Africa.
Rampant piracy off the coast of Somali that is threatening a key shipping route had also contributed to the region’s woes, the agency said.
"We are witnessing an all too familiar tragedy unfolding, and unless we act with much greater urgency the situation for children can only get worse," Rozga added.
Malnutrition rates among children in Djibouti, Somalia and parts of Eritrea were high, said UNICEF.
It said its relief efforts were hamstrung by lack of funds. So far this year it has received less than 10 percent of its projected emergency funding requirements.