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WHO Warns of Disease Threat Amid Horn of Africa Drought

WHO has provided more than USD 16 million from an emergency fund to address needs, but more support is required. The agency is now appealing for USD 123.7 million which will be used to prevent and control outbreaks, treat malnutrition, and provide essential health services as well as medicines.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has highlighted the need to support millions facing starvation and disease in the Horn of Africa. 

Dr Tedros said that drought, conflict, climate change and increasing prices for food, fuel and fertilizer, are all contributing to the lack of access to sufficient food. The countries affected include Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia, where lives are on the line after failed crop harvests as well as large-scale structural and chronic vulnerabilities.

In the case of Uganda, the situation is more propounded in the areas of Karamoja, one of Uganda’s poorest regions, and parts of Lango, in North and North Eastern Uganda where people are in urgent need of food assistance. Thousands of pregnant women in the regions are projected to be acutely malnourished mainly in the districts of Kotido, Moroto and Nabilatuk.  

According to Dr Tedros, the crisis is forcing some people to choose between paying for food and healthcare, many are migrating in search of food, which can put them at increased risk of disease. "Hunger and malnutrition pose a direct threat to health, but they also weaken the body’s defences and open the door to diseases including pneumonia, measles and cholera," he explained.

He said that WHO has provided more than USD 16 million from an emergency fund to address needs, but more support is required. The agency is now appealing for USD 123.7 million which will be used to prevent and control outbreaks, treat malnutrition, and provide essential health services as well as medicines.  

Tedros said the drought is compounding the man-made catastrophe in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, where war has raged for nearly two years. Some six million people are under siege by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, he said, sealed off from the outside world, with no telecommunications, no banking services and very limited electricity and fuel.

As a result, they are facing multiple outbreaks of malaria, anthrax, cholera, diarrhoea and other diseases. This unimaginable cruelty must end. The only solution is peace,” said Tedros.  At the end of the briefing, he appealed for greater global attention to the situation in Tigray. 

“I can tell you that the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is more than (in) Ukraine, without any exaggeration.  And I said it many months ago, maybe the reason is the colour of the skin of the people in Tigray.”