NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – UNICEF Country Representative Olivia Yambi has called for urgent response to the famine that has led to high death rates of women and children in the Northern part of the country.
Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, she said children were the most affected with high records of serious malnutrition levels and death rates.“The crisis is very serious, the shock hits hardest on children and women. Many districts in Kenya show elevated levels of malnutrition. Children too small, too light too short for their age,” she said.
Ms Yambi expressed sadness that the famine was a step backward on the gains made in reducing maternal mortalities. Turkana – where famine has dug its claws deep – is one of the areas she identified as the most affected with a global acute malnutrition of 37.5 percent. Though she noted that interventions were in place to arrest the situation, she said there were fears that it would get worse and more people would be affected by the famine.
According to her, 385,000 children in North Eastern had malnutrition while 90,000 pregnant and lactating mothers were also affected. Apart from the hunger, she said many people lost their lives traveling in search of food and water. She also drew her attention to the dangers of long journeys where crime especially sexual abuse was a common occurrence.
The spread of diseases like measles and polio were also some of the concerns she raised. Ms Yambi cautioned that if no action was taken, the situations would soon become unmanageable owing it to the lack of enough resources to cater for food, water, medication, sanitation and housing. In view of the refugees from Somalia UNHCR Representative Elike Segbor said discussions with the government on the opening of the Ifo 2 camp had materialised and already 300 tents had been set up and 1,500 refugees moved in.
However, he said preparations were still ongoing to clear the outskirts of the camp which has about 80,000 people living there. Mr Segbor further revealed that the government of Kenya had agreed to open a transit centre where people entering Kenya from Somalia have to pass through for screening and proper registration. He said it was one of the steps identified to address security concerns raised over the upsurge of refugees in the country.
Despite the gesture he said there was tension between the refugees coming in the camp and the host communities which he said UNHCR and the government was discussing to see how peace will prevail among them. He also appealed to the international community to support Kenya handle the growing numbers of refugees entering the country on a daily basis.
World Food Programme Director Pippa Bradford said 2.4 million people were under the brackets of food insecurity and like the rest of the donors he was certain that the numbers would increase hence the need of increasing the supplies. He predicted that by next month the numbers will rise to 3.5 million people who will be in need of food.