Due to severe food insecurity brought on by conflict, catastrophic weather occurrences, and rising global food and fuel prices, as well as effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is expanding its operations in eastern Africa.
In eastern Africa, there are over 80 million people who are food insecure and turn to desperate methods to feed their family. Acute malnutrition is widespread, particularly in youngsters.
“The cost of inaction is high,” said Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO assistant director-general for emergency response. “While the clear priority is to prevent people from starving, we must simultaneously strengthen our health response to prevent disease and save lives. Even one life lost from a vaccine-preventable disease, diarrhea, or medical complications from malnutrition in today’s world, is one life too many.”
Fall addressed the issue in Nairobi where WHO held a two-day meeting (26 – 27 June 2022). Here, they joined forces with other UN agencies and partners in preparing its response across the seven countries affected by the health emergency: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
Tackling disease outbreaks, malnourishment
The primary goals of WHO’s emergency response are to ensure that impacted populations have access to basic healthcare services, to treat severely malnourished unwell children, and to stop, identify, and contain infectious disease outbreaks.
“WHO is setting up a hub in Nairobi, from where it will coordinate the response and organise the delivery of life-saving medical supplies to where they are needed most. These supplies include medicines, vaccines, as well the medicines and equipment needed to treat children who are severely malnourished. Other than providing these critical supplies, WHO is working with ministries of health in the affected countries to set up robust disease surveillance systems to be able to quickly detect and respond to disease outbreaks,” Fall added.
“Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in the region, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years. The latest forecasts suggest that there is now a concrete risk that the next rainy season could also fail. The situation is particularly urgent in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia where a lack of food means that an estimated 7 million children are malnourished, including over 1.7 million who are severely malnourished. Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment.”
Different nations are impacted in various ways. For instance, in South Sudan, more than 60% of the population is experiencing a food crisis, whereas the issue is mostly present in the north-eastern part of Uganda. Measles and cholera outbreaks are affecting all seven nations (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda).