WHO Sets Up Hub in Nairobi to Address East Africa Malnutrition Crisis 30/06/2022 • Kerry Cullinan Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) A Somalian mother with her baby who is being treated for malnutrition. In the face of growing malnutrition and related diseases of pneumonia, diarrhoea and measles, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it is setting up a hub in Kenya to help fight the “major physical and mental health repercussions” of the food crisis in the Eastern Africa region. More than 80 million people, or one-in-four people who live in East Africa are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families, according to WHO. And the Horn of Africa, which includes Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, is in the midst of a four-year drought. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyusus says the hub will coordinate deliveries of medical supplies to where they are needed most in the region, which is hard hit by the global price spikes of food, fuel and other commodities caused by pandemic-hit supply chains, Russia’s war in Ukraine and inflation. “People need access to affordable and nutritious food, as well as support through these difficult times. Some regions like the Horn of Africa are facing extremely serious food insecurity issues that could lead to famine,” he told a press briefing on Wednesday. “Over 80 million people, one in four, in the Eastern Africa region are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures in order to feed themselves and their families. Lack of food and nutrition weakens people’s immune system and puts them more at risk of disease.” Lack of food and nutrition weakens people’s immune system, putting them more at risk of disease. Children who are undernourished are at higher risk of death from pneumonia, diarrhoeal disease and measles, Tedros noted. WHO says it is working with partners on the ground to deliver essential health services, treat sick children with severe malnutrition, and prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. As part of that effort, Tedros said, WHO is “setting up a hub in Nairobi, from where it will coordinate the response and organize the delivery of live-saving medical supplies to where they are needed most. These supplies include medicines, vaccines, as well the products and equipment to treat children who are severely malnourished.” The U.N. health agency also is working with the health ministries in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda to build what Tedros described as a “robust disease surveillance system to be able to quickly detect and respond to disease outbreaks.” Unprecedented drought Some 146,000 Somalian children with severe acute malnutrition have already been admitted into therapeutic care this year, and more than 640,000 people have been given emergency water supplies, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Almost half the population – 7.7 million people – face starvation. “The current extreme, widespread, and persistent multi-season drought is unprecedented,” said OCHA. “Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years. The 2022 March-May rainy season has not materialized and is likely to be the driest on record, devastating livelihoods and driving sharp increases in food, water, and nutrition insecurity.” Earlier this month, UNICEF reported that the severe water shortages have led to a severe acute watery diarrhoea and cholera outbreak. “Over 18 million people – one in four – in the eastern Africa region are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures in order to feed themselves and their families,” Tedros told a media briefing on Wednesday. “Lack of food and nutrition weakens a person’s immune system and puts them all at risk of disease. Children that are malnourished are at higher risk of death from pneumonia, diarrhoeal disease and measles.” Over 9,500 suspected cases of measles have been reported in Somalia alone between January and 30 May, according to UNICEF. Tedros blamed spiking prices of food, fuel and other commodities, which is “having major physical and mental health repercussions”, warning that the Horn of Africa was facing famine. “The cost of inaction is high,” said Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response. “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 was speaking in Nairobi where WHO convened a two-day meeting [26-27 June 2022] to plan its response across the seven countries affected by the health emergency – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda – and coordinate with other UN agencies and partners. Image Credits: UNICEF. 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