KENYA – The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to set up an emergency response hub in Nairobi, Kenya from where the multinational body will coordinate emergency response needs for the Eastern Africa region and organize the delivery of life-saving medical supplies to where they are needed most.
“WHO’s emergency response is focused on ensuring affected populations can access essential health services, treating sick children with severe malnutrition along with preventing, detecting and responding to infectious disease outbreaks,” the WHO Regional Office for Africa said in a press statement.
The hub will focus on essential supplies such as medicines, vaccines as well as medicines and equipment needed to treat children who are severely malnourished while working closely with ministries of health to set up robust disease surveillance systems for emergency preparedness and response.
The World Health Organization recently revealed that over 80 million people in the eastern African region are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families, warning that acute malnutrition is high especially among children.
The international public health agency warned that health needs in the Eastern African region are on the rise as malnutrition increases, observing that people can no longer access health services as they leave their homes in search of food and they become more at risk from disease outbreaks.
Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response stressed that the cost of inaction in addressing the food insecurity issue is high while urging that governments must simultaneously strengthen their health response to prevent disease and save lives.
The issue was raised during a two-day meeting organized by WHO in Nairobi from 26th – 27th June 2022 to plan its response across the seven countries affected by the health emergency namely Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda to coordinate with other UN agencies and partners.
According to WHO, malnutrition refers to deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients or impaired nutrient utilization and the double burden of malnutrition consists of both undernutrition and overweight and obesity including diet-related noncommunicable diseases.
The global health body highlight that undernutrition manifests in four broad forms namely wasting, stunting, underweight and micronutrient deficiencies, noting that wasting is defined as low weight-for-height and severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment.
Wasting often indicates recent and severe weight loss and it usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses. Wasting in children is associated with a higher risk of death if not treated properly.
The World Meteorological Organization declared that four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in the Eastern African region which is a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years while the latest forecasts suggest that there is now a concrete risk that the next rainy season could also fail.
Subsequently, WHO is scaling up its operations in Eastern Africa to aid the region in tackling acute food insecurity caused by conflict, extreme weather events particularly the worst drought in 40 years that has been accelerated by climate change, rising international food and fuel prices and COVID-19 pandemic.
The operations seek to address the current food insecurity situation particularly urgent in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia where a lack of food means that an estimated 7 million children are malnourished including over 1.7 million who are severely malnourished.