4.6 million Ethiopians affected by severe drought

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UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson arrived here Thursday for a four-day visit to Ethiopia, during which she will review the emergency situation in drought affected areas.

Johnson will visit hot spots in the south of the country and meet with government, UN partners, donors and officials of non-governmental organisations undertaking humanitarian activities in response to the drought emergency.

The Government of Ethiopia estimates that at present, 75,000 children under the age of five in drought-affected areas face severe acute malnutrition and require immediate therapeutic care to survive.

Around the country, at least 4.6 million people in drought-affected areas are in immediate need of humanitarian aid.

According to UNICEF, children are the most vulnerable to nutritional shocks and the first to succumb when there is not enough food at home.

A child with severe acute malnutrition has a 25-50 per cent chance of dying, unless properly treated and given therapeutic foods.

UNICEF, the main provider of therapeutic feeding products in Ethiopia, however, faces a desperate shortage of supplies required to save the lives of children with severe acute malnutrition.

Last week, the agency received 92 metric tons of ready-to-use therapeutic foods, which can be distributed for the home-based care of severely malnourished children, provided the children do not have complications that require medical supervision.

UNICEF is expecting an additional 772 metric tons of ready-to-use therapeutic foods over the next three weeks to cover feeding requirements for six weeks.

With the emergency situation expected to continue for at least another three months, these shipments fall far short of what is needed to save the lives of tens of thousands of children under the age five.

UNICEF has appealed for US$50 million to respond to the nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene and education emergency needs of children and women affected by the drought and to assist the Government in mitigating potential additional emergencies.

To date the UN agency has received grants and pledges for only US$22 million. Panapress .

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