A World Health Organization (WHO) official said that the global health agency is intensifying response to the looming health crisis in the greater Horn of Africa.
Ibrahima Socé Fall, assistant Director-General for Emergency Response at the WHO noted that it is unfortunate that the health risks in the region are increasing, while access to health care is deteriorating.
“While the clear priority is to prevent people from starving, we must simultaneously strengthen our health response to prevent disease and save lives. Even one life lost from a vaccine-preventable disease, diarrhoea, or medical complications from malnutrition in today’s world is one life too many,” Fall told journalists in Nairobi.
Fall attributed acute food insecurity to conflict, extreme weather events including the worst drought in 40 years that is induced by climate change, rising international food and fuel prices and the impact of the pandemic.
The official said that over 80 million people in the eastern African region are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families.
The situation, he said, has led to rise of acute malnutrition especially among children in the countries within the region.
He observed that as malnutrition increases, the health needs in the region are mounting, especially among children, and clean water is becoming scarce.
He added that the WHO’s emergency response is focused on ensuring affected populations can access essential health services, treating sick children with severe malnutrition, and preventing, detecting and responding to infectious disease outbreaks.
Fall revealed that WHO is setting up a hub in Nairobi, from where it will coordinate the response and organize the delivery of life-saving medical supplies to where they are needed most.
These supplies, he said, include medicines, vaccines, as well the medicines and equipment needed to treat children who are severely malnourished.
He noted that other than providing these critical supplies, WHO is working with ministries of health in the affected countries to set up robust disease surveillance systems to be able to quickly detect and respond to disease outbreaks.
Fall was speaking in Nairobi where WHO convened a two-day meeting to plan its response across Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda that are currently affected.