The worst drought in 60 years could lead to a “human tragedy of unimaginable proportions”, the UN refugee head Antonio Gutierrez informed. The agency says more than 50% of Somali children arriving in Ethiopia are seriously malnourished. In Kenya, that figure is between 30% and 40%.
“What is the most tragic for us to witness, is that there are children who do arrive in such a weakened state that despite our emergency care and therapeutic feeding, they’re dying within 24 hours,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming. “Our people are saying they’ve never seen anything like it.”
“We estimate that one quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million people are now either internally displaced or are living outside the country as refugees,” she said. Fleming added that there was no sign of the exodus of Somalis ending.
Nicholas Wasunna, senior adviser for World Vision in Kenya, said malnutrition in children under five could affect them for the rest of their lives. “If they do not get the nutritional requirement they need in the first five years of their lives, there will be stunting and this [is] irreversible, and therefore they will never be able to live really their full potential,” he said. (MS)