Humanitarian compassion for the Horn of Africa

July 29, 2011


The worst drought in 60 years is plaguing the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia). There has been no rain for four years in some localities. There have been very poor harvests, especially for grain, leading to soaring prices of agricultural commodities.

Alarm bells were pulled in late June by Elisabeth Byrs of UNOCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Since then whole populations have suffered from famine, and many have had to flee their country. Ten million people are affected by this situation, including two million children who suffer most from malnutrition.

Somalia, especially in the south, is today considered to be the epicenter of the food crisis and of population displacements.

Daadab, a refugee camp in Kenya on the Somali border, is the largest in the world. 350,000 people have been packed in there and since January, “climate” refugees have swelled the ranks.

Areas of food shortages - UNHCR/USAID

Faced with this emergency, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF launched an appeal for donations and action on July 1st.

It is a question of survival for the children,” said Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF Director for the Eastern and Southern Africa Region. “Children do not die simply because they have nothing to eat. The various stages of malnutrition make them more vulnerable to other diseases. The higher the rate of malnutrition, the higher the risk for the children.

While a humanitarian response to emergencies is the only possible solution at this stage, in light of the gravity of the situation, it is nevertheless far from satisfactory. This is why the Sanofi Espoir Foundation, alongside emergency actions in tandem with UNICEF, has decided to support longer-term programs such as those implemented by AMREF.

UNICEF has set up an emergency response unit in southern Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. The priority is to take care of severely malnourished children by distributing therapeutic food, better access to safe water, and basic healthcare services.

In the healthcare field, the Foundation is supporting UNICEF’s six-month vaccination campaign to vaccinate a million children against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio. Three million children aged 15 will also be vaccinated against measles to prevent an epidemic in certain areas.

In the north of Kenya, the campaign will target 202,665 children of under five living in aid communities around the refugee camps in Dadaab. In the south of Somalia, 40,000 children aged under five and 46,000 women have already been vaccinated this week in eight districts of Mogadiscio where the camps are overcrowded with displaced persons.

UNICEF is also providing technical and logistical support to 300 health facilities, mobile teams and the regional hospital in southern Somalia to deliver primary healthcare to nearly 850,000 people.
Oral rehydration salts and tablets to purify water will also be provided to one million children via healthcare centers.

AMREF, the leading African public health NGO that has been at work in Kenya for 54 years, has developed a contingency plan to address the immediate healthcare needs in areas affected by drought and famine.

The Sanofi Espoir Foundation is supporting the emergency plan in the Makueni district east of Nairobi. This aims at improving the nutritional status of 19,440 children and 25,920 women of childbearing age, fostering access to healthcare and mobile medical assistance to communities, providing safe drinking water, and reducing water-related diseases.

In the short term these activities will help:


  • train 100 community workers to promote best practices in hygiene
  • provide and distribute 100,000 chlorine tablets for treating water
  • roll out 60 mobile medical assistance teams to provide better maternal and child healthcare
  • direct malnourished children, pregnant women and the elderly to available healthcare facilities, and distribute food supplements to malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women, people living with HIV, and the elderly.