UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning today that the risk of mass deaths from starvation among populations in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Nigeria is growing. This warning is in light of droughts that are also affecting many neighbouring countries and a funding shortfall that has become so severe that an avoidable humanitarian crisis in the region, possibly worse than that of 2011, is fast becoming an inevitability.
Already displacement is rising, forcing us to upgrade our displacement estimates for 2017. In Sudan, for example, where our initial estimate was for 60,000 arrivals from South Sudan this year, we are in the process of revising the expected total upwards to 180,000. Similarly in Uganda we are revising planning from 300,000 displaced to 400,000.
In all, more than 20 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen are experiencing famine or are at risk. The regions in which these countries sit, including the Lake Chad basin, Great Lakes, East, Horn of Africa and Yemen together host well over 4 million refugees and asylum seekers. Consecutive harvests have failed, conflict in South Sudan coupled with drought is leading to famine and outflows of refugees, insecurity in Somalia is leading to rising internal displacement, and rates of malnutrition are high, especially among children and lactating mothers. In the Dollo Ado area of southeast Ethiopia for example, acute malnutrition rates among newly arriving Somali refugee children aged between 6 months and five years are now running at 50-79 percent.
Children account for the majority of refugees (62 percent, for instance, in the case of refugees fleeing South Sudan) and in common with other refugees nearly all are dependent on food assistance via our sister-agency WFP. With no money to buy food, rations however are being cut. In Djibouti rations have been cut by 12 per cent, in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda by between 20 and 50 percent, and in Uganda by up to 75 percent. Many refugees are without full access to livelihoods and agriculture or food production and their ability to take matters into their own hands and help themselves is limited.
In this context, the risks to children can be particularly great. Already, many are dropping out of school. In Kenya, 175,000 students in drought areas have stopped attending school. In Ethiopia, almost 600 schools have closed. In all, some five million children could in the coming weeks and months see their educations being disrupted.
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