Thousands of children in need - UNICEF

About 200,000 children in the Horn of Africa are suffering from acute malnutrition, diarrhoea and water-borne diseases after torrential rains caused flash floods, leading to population displacement and loss of homes and livelihoods, especially in Ethiopia and northern Kenya, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said.

Seasonal rains had not ended the drought-related emergency in the region, and in many places had compounded the precarious situation, the UN agency said, noting that it needed nearly US $43 million to respond to the urgent needs of children and women in the area.

The impact of the recent drought, it noted, was most severe in pastoral areas of five countries, particularly in Kenya and Somalia, where nutrition assessments indicate malnutrition levels far beyond emergency thresholds, but also in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

"Pastoralist children usually enjoy a diet rich in protein, but when livestock waste away during a drought, stop producing milk and then collapse and die, the deprivation of their normal diet comes as a shock to their metabolism," Unicef said in a statement. "Within a couple of months, the children become severely undernourished."

It noted that many pastoralist families who lost most of their livestock over the past few months had migrated in search of water, food, jobs and support from family members in urban areas. This had made them increasingly vulnerable to political and economic marginalisation.

"There is a growing consensus among aid agencies and governments that a better response would be to adapt services to the nomadic lives of the pastoralists, instead of forcing them to adopt a sedentary way of life for which they are ill-equipped," Unicef noted.