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UNICEF pledges continued assistance to drought-affected Somalis

14 September 2011 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will maintain its humanitarian response to the food crisis in Somalia and in camps in neighbouring countries where refugees from the country have sought assistance even with the expected onset of the rainy season.

The agency will “monitor very closely the evolving situation so that the gains today will not be put in danger by the lack of sustained response,” Elhadj As Sy, the UNICEF Regional Director for East and Southern Africa Region, told reporters at UN Headquarters.

“We continue to be very motivated – every life saved is a source of motivation to keep on,” he said, expressing his gratitude to the donor community whose response to appeals for resources to fund the relief effort in the drought-stricken areas of the Horn of Africa have been “good and fantastic.”

Tens of thousands of Somalis are estimated to have died and more than 3.2 million are facing severe food shortages following one of the most devastating droughts in the Horn of Africa in six decades. Conflict and high food prices exacerbated the plight of those affected, according to relief agencies.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update last week that nearly a million more people are in need of humanitarian aid across the Horn of Africa, bringing the total to 13.3 million.

UN agencies and their partners have for weeks been ramping up their humanitarian efforts across the region especially for Somalis, including hundreds of thousands of refugees from a country that has been torn apart by two decades of conflict and lack of a fully functioning central government.

The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said last week that forecasts indicate a possible return to normal to above-normal rainfall conditions in southern Somalia, but added that there was a risk of below-normal rainfall remains in northern Somalia and adjoining regions.

The September-to-December wet spell constitutes an important rainy season after the March-May rains in southern Somalia and other equatorial parts of the region, including Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and northern Tanzania, but rainfall in northern Somalia during this period is typically lower than in the south, according to WMO.

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