The impact of drought on health in the Horn of Africa

This East African nation is known for stability. But drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity, says a new report from the U.S. Agency for International Development. East Africa U.S. AID and the Development…

The impact of drought on health in the Horn of Africa

This East African nation is known for stability. But drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity, says a new report from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

East Africa

U.S. AID and the Development Assistance Group of the East African Community (EAC) released a report entitled “The Impact of Drought on Human Security in East Africa,” which highlighted the impact of El Nino and drought in the Horn of Africa.

Droughts in Ethiopia and Kenya have caused widespread hunger, increasing the incidence of malnutrition and fueling the spread of infectious diseases, according to a report released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The report, based on data from more than 1,000 health, nutrition and child development surveys, found that the most dramatic increases in mortality among children under age five have occurred since 2004, largely in the drought-affected region. During that four year period over 800,000 children under the age of five died, or approximately 8.3% of children that year, the report said.

“We find that these diseases are affecting large numbers of children across the Horn of Africa, in both the most afflicted and least afflicted areas, and we can also report that both drought and infectious diseases are driving malnutrition and increase fertility in parts of the Horn of Africa,” said Rebecca H. Siegel, IHME’s director.

The report was released yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The East African Community (EAC) is an intergovernmental organization of 11 eastern African states, including Ethiopia and Kenya.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of drought in the Horn of Africa on the health of our children,” says Peter Pritchard, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistant administrator for Africa.

But the impact of drought may just be a symptom on the effects of climate change.

Drought and climate change

“The report shows clearly that climate change is causing drought in parts of the Horn of Africa and is impacting health,” said Pritchard. “We need to learn more about how climate change is affecting the region and what our countries can do to protect children’s health.”

Pritchard says the EAC is already implementing a drought resilience strategy.

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