August 30, 2011

Support needed to save and protect the many children and women in need.

Mercy International Association made a direct appeal in last week’s E News to the Sisters of Mercy and their Associates to provide funds through UNICEF to those who are directly providing relief to those worst affected by the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, Mercy International Association at the UN heard first hand from Chris Tidey, a UNICEF Communication Specialist for Emergencies, who recently returned from Dadaab, Kenya where he was supporting UNICEF’s efforts in the Dadaab Refugee Camp, on how humanitarian support for the crisis across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti is critical for the more than 12 million people in dire need of assistance. In a teleconference hosted by Mr. Tidey, participants were given an overview of the crisis, the challenges faced by children and women living in and outside the refugee camp, UNICEF’s efforts on the ground, and the support needed to save and protect the many children and women in need.

Conference highlights included:

The Crisis:

1)Across the Horn of Africa, more than 12 million are devastated by the crisis. This number is steadily increasing. Famine has been declared in five districts of southern Somalia, and all other regions of the south will have a famine in the next one to two months if help does not arrive quickly enough. This is the worst food security crisis in Africa in the last 20 years and the worst in the world today. But this is more than just a food crisis. This is a crisis for child survival.

2)Ten of thousands have already died as result of the crisis.

3)The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which consists of a network of three camps and has a capacity for 90,000, now has a population of more than 400,000. Some 1,300 new refugees arrive each day; the vast majority are from Somalia.

4)Refugees arrive after days and days of walking from their drought and famine affected areas. Eighty percent of new arrivals are women and children. Mr. Tidey pointed out that almost every family he interviewed at the camp reported having had one or more family members die en route from this devastation. Mr. Tidey told participants that the silence in the camp registration areas is both deafening and haunting. Refugees, exhausted from the journey and malnutrition, do not have the energy to talk. Babies rarely cry.

5)Since the start of the crisis, an estimated 4-5 thousand unaccompanied minors have arrived at the camp.

UNICEF’s emergency relief efforts at the Dadaab refugee camp concentrate on five main areas: nutrition; health; education; water and sanitation; and child protection.


UNICEF provides therapeutic feeding supplies for severely and moderately malnourished children.
Mr. Tidey spoke of how a three-year-old boy, whose mother had died en route, weighed in at just 5 kilos upon arrival at the camp. After 4 weeks of therapeutic intervention, the little boy was released to outpatient care, weighing about 6.5 kilos. A key indicator that children are crossing a health threshold and can be released to outpatient care is when they are able to feed themselves.


UNICEF vaccinates children for measles and polio and provides de-worming and Vitamin A supplementation. UNICEF is supporting integrated campaigns for measles and polio immunization, deworming and Vitamin A supplementation, in Dadaab and surrounding host communities. More than 200,000 children under five will be reached through the immunization campaign over the coming weeks. More than 100,000 children have already been vaccinated.


Mr. Tidey stressed how important it is in an emergency situation to provide educational opportunities for refugees. It brings a sense of normalcy and well-being to the children’s lives. It also provides UNICEF with a vehicle to provide critical health, nutrition and protection advocacy messages.
In the camp, UNICEF builds temporary classrooms and provides educational supplies and recreational kits for children.

Water and Sanitation

UNICEF works with local partners to provide education on disease prevention and hand-washing techniques. With their local partners, UNICEF goes door to door demonstrating good hand-washing practices. They also provide families with latrines.
New water points are being installed and jerry cans are also distributed by UNICEF.

UNICEF has set up water stations along the route from the Kenya-Somalia border to the Dadaab refugee camp to provide clean drinking to water and help save the lives of refugees making the dangerous—and often deadly—60 mile trek.


Since the majority of refugees at the camp are women and children, the risk of gender-based violence is very high.

Measures that UNICEF has taken to address this include:

• Counseling women and children to go in groups rather than alone to collect much needed fire and wood.
• Providing locks for the inside of the latrine doors to safeguard the women and children from attacks.
• Working in collaboration with partners on the ground to place unaccompanied and vulnerable children with foster families, and to reunite children where possible with their family of origin.
• Establishing temporary child friendly spaces for children to access psychological supports and services they need.

What can be done to support UNICEF’S efforts?

To reach the increasing numbers of children and women suffering in drought-affected areas of the Horn of Africa, UNICEF humanitarian requirements for 2011 have been revised to $315 million until the end of 2011 for relief efforts. UNICEF has received 59% of the $315 million it needs to work in Somalia, so the current shortfall is $127 million. UNICEF is entirely dependent on donations.

Contributions to UNICEF’s Consolidated Appeal, where the resources are directed to lifesaving response, would greatly benefit the victims of this devastating crisis. UNICEF is massively scaling up its relief efforts to get children the basics they need for survival and is rushing humanitarian supplies in by air, land, and sea to the Horn of Africa. UNICEF has unrivaled expertise in responding to the unique needs of children affected by emergencies of all sorts. UNICEF is using every means possible to reach every child.

UNICEF and partners have launched vaccination campaigns for hundreds of thousands of children. Campaigns are targeting children under five, with measles and polio vaccines, together with Vitamin A and de-worming tablets. Mosquito nets to prevent malaria, essential medicines and vaccines are being airlifted to support massive vaccination campaigns in the coming weeks to prevent outbreaks of disease.
To further improve access to safe water and sanitation, UNICEF will be drilling and rehabilitating wells, trucking in water and expanding hygiene promotion activities.

Donations will help ensure that children and women receive therapeutic treatment for severe malnutrition, gain access to clean drinking water and better sanitation, and are vaccinated against measles, polio, and other deadly diseases because malnourished children are extremely susceptible to killer diseases. Malaria and measles epidemics are also expected when the rains come in October.

Roughly $10 can feed a child for 10 days. Join now to prevent this catastrophe from unfolding. We can save more lives if we act now.

For further details on this particular appeal, go to

Messages to Aine O’Connor rsm -  Mercy International Association at the UN

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