Famine: Over 80 million people in this region — which comprises Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda — lack access to food that would meet their basic needs along with safe water. Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are experiencing measles outbreaks, while Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan are witnessing cholera outbreaks.
CAIRO AUGUST 30: In the greater Horn of Africa, famine is looming at the doorstep of many households. Over 80 million people in this region — which comprises Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda — lack access to food that would meet their basic needs along with safe water. More than 37 million of these people have reached crossroads in their lives where they have had to sell their possessions to feed themselves and their families.
In this dire situation, the risk of morbidity and mortality due to outbreak-prone diseases comes in tandem with forced displacement. This is set against a backdrop of limited access to essential and primary health care interventions across the entire region. Each day, the most vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and displaced people, are facing growing threats of being infected with communicable diseases.
The drought has exacerbated disease outbreaks in the Horn of Africa, a region that is constantly facing other emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic currently. Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are experiencing measles outbreaks, while Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan are witnessing cholera outbreaks.
To continue to deter these severe health consequences of the drought in a coordinated manner in the greater Horn of Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a meeting from 26 to 27 June 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya, for the organization’s senior specialists and officials. These experts included Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response, the WHO Representatives from the 7 countries of the region, and other technical expertise.
The participants set out to brainstorm ways to mount a stronger and coherent health response. They considered joint measures to improve primary health care interventions, including in the delivery of essential health services, nutrition support and immunization, communication and resource mobilization, and regional, inter-agency, and partner coordination. They also discussed the alignment of response plans, and health intelligence and information products and systems. After finalizing the Contingency Fund for Emergencies, an emergency fund run by WHO, the country teams also agreed on a series of next steps to take to advance recommended action.
Following an analysis of all the different information collection tools and siloed, donor-driven individual disease management systems in the 7 countries, the participants agreed on the need to integrate health information management assets in the countries into a single cohesive integrated system.
To scale up the response to the situation in the greater Horn of Africa, on 2 August 2022, WHO launched an appeal for US$ 123.7 million. The response will focus on 5 pillars: coordination and collaboration; surveillance and information; outbreak prevention and control; essential nutrition actions; and essential health services. All to counteract the famine.
Image: Guilhem Vellut