A year ago today, the East Africa crisis reached boiling point when the UN declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia.
The extraordinary support provided by our supporters and relief organisations, coupled with favourable rains, helped save countless lives and reverse the famine.
However the crisis is far from over.
Eight million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Children, in particular, are threatened by a combination of poverty, insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.
"Many children remain extremely vulnerable," said Elhadj As Sy, the UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. "This was, and continues to be a children’s emergency. We must continue to provide emergency assistance, but also work more closely with communities to protect them against future shocks."
With generous support from our supporters, who provided over £250 million in 2011, UNICEF was able to expand work in drought-stricken Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, where more than 13 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance.
Between July and December 2011, about 63,000 metric tonnes of humanitarian supplies were delivered, including more than 30,000 tonnes of food aid. To date, nearly one million children have been treated for malnutrition across the region.
With a third of the population, roughly 2.5 million people, still in need of emergency assistance, Somalia remains the worst affected country. In some regions of the South, one in five children is suffering from life-threatening acute malnutrition.
In Kenya, 2.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 3.2 million people in Ethiopia. Malnutrition continues to be a serious concern. Currently nearly 900,000 children are suffering from malnutrition in all the three countries.
The crisis forced thousands of people out of their homes. There are now more than 626,000 Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia. Inside Somalia, more than one million people are internally displaced, nearly 60 per cent of them children.
Short-term emergency assistance, although crucial, cannot prevent future crises. UNICEF is increasingly working to build resilience and address the long-term needs of the most vulnerable.
"Traditional coping mechanisms are being stretched to the limit for many communities,” said Mr. Sy. “The cycle of crises must be broken. We need to preserve our hard-won gains, and invest in children today to prevent similar crises from happening again in the future."