Apart from the diseases that affect them, children in the Sahel and Horn of Africa countries face an acute lack of safe drinking water. A situation that does not leave indifferent UNICEF which, moreover, calls for a general mobilization to stop the disaster.
In addition to the various scourges of epidemic diseases, terrorism, etc., populations, including children in the Sahel and Horn of Africa countries, face very high levels of water vulnerability. The lack of safe drinking water in the region due to the increasingly severe drought exposes millions of children, according to UNICEF, given that in drought-affected areas many families no longer have the money to get water. This water insecurity, underlines the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), puts children and their families at increased risk of contracting diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. “Imagine having to choose between buying bread or water for a hungry, thirsty and already ill child, or watching your child suffer from extreme thirst or letting him drink contaminated water that can cause fatal illnesses,” said Catherine Russell, Director General of UNICEF.
40% reduction in available water in the Sahel
According to the organization, in the Sahel, drought, conflict and instability are the root causes of water insecurity in the region. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, nearly 40 million children are facing high or extremely high levels of water vulnerability. The number of children dying due to poor water and sanitation is already higher in the Sahel than in any other region of the world, according to the latest data published by WHO.Across the Sahel, available water has also declined by more than 40 per cent over the past 20 years due to climate change and complex factors such as conflict, which put millions of children and families at increased risk of waterborne diseases.
Almost 3 million of children are already malnourished
According to the Child Protection Organization, in Kenya, more than 90% of open water sources such as ponds and open pits in drought-affected areas are either depleted or drained, posing a serious risk of epidemic. In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, more than 2.8 million children in these two regions are already suffering from severe acute malnutrition. As a result, they are 11 times more at risk of dying from water-borne diseases than children with good nutrition. Almost two thirds of affected children are under five years of age. “Across the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, millions of children are on the brink of disaster,” said the UNICEF Chief.
In Somalia, outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and cholera have been reported in almost all drought-affected districts. The 8,200 cases recorded between January and June represent more than double the number of cases reported during the same period last year. Between June 2021 and June 2022, UNICEF and its partners treated more than 1.2 million cases of diarrhoea in children under five years of age in the most drought-affected regions of Ethiopia, namely Afar, Somali, RNNPS and Oromia
Increasing funding to respond to the crisis
It should be noted that last year, West and Central Africa experienced the worst cholera epidemic in the last six years, with 5,610 cases and 170 deaths recorded in the central Sahel region. To combat this crisis, UNICEF is providing life-saving assistance and resilient services to children and their families most in need in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. But UNICEF’s appeal for the Horn of Africa is currently only funded at 3%. The one for the central Sahel region received only 22% of financial contributions. “To end this crisis, governments, donors and the international community must increase funding to address the most urgent needs of children and provide long-term flexible support to break the cycle of the crisis,” concluded the UNICEF Chief.