Photo Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

WHO Health Emergency Appeal: Drought crises in the Sahel and Greater Horn of Africa

Support healthcare operations and help to save lives.

WHO Foundation in
Kajiado county, Kenya

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WHO intensifies its healthcare response in the Sahel and Greater Horn of Africa.

The health risks in the region are increasing, while access to health care is deteriorating.

As people become increasingly food insecure, they also must make the impossible choice between food and healthcare, even as nutritional deficiencies make them increasingly vulnerable to disease. This is particularly true for children, for whom the combination of malnutrition and disease can prove fatal.

As families face extreme hunger, many have left their homes in search of food and water, and pasture for animals. Outbreaks of infectious diseases are a major concern, especially when combined with low existing vaccination coverage and health service availability.

WHO is coordinating with partners in the health sector and beyond to ramp up its response in the region to avert the worst effects of extreme hunger and to give people access to the health services they need.

Along with countering the consequences of malnutrition, WHO is helping countries to prepare for outbreaks of diseases like cholera, measles and malaria. This includes improving surveillance systems for communicable diseases to identify and respond to new outbreaks quickly.

Among affected populations, WHO helps ensure that essential health services like those for sexual and reproductive health, treatment for chronic infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV, as well as mental health services as people are at high risk of violence and distress can continue without disruption.

Health indicators in the Sahel are among the worst in the world. The region has some of the highest maternal mortality rates globally at 856 deaths per 100,000 live births due to poor access to maternal and reproductive health care as well as a high prevalence of early marriage.

Armed attacks against civilians and public infrastructure — including health facilities and schools — droughts, land degradation and unpredictable weather are exacerbating the plight of millions of people in the Sahel.

Access to health has become more limited due to COVID-19, increasing violence and damaged health facilities. The region is regularly affected by large epidemics. More than 110,000 cases of Cholera were recorded in 2021 and yellow fever transmission is at 20 years high.

Conflict and insecurity are a major barrier to delivering humanitarian assistance. These challenges hinder the delivery of essential medicines, engage communities in public health programmes such as water and sanitation services, distribution of bed nets and basic childhood vaccinations.

In response to the growing crisis, WHO, together with the more than 350 health partners, coordinates across the six countries, is strengthening its presence in the region. To provide immediate life-saving assistance to those in need, and support national authorities in strengthening their health systems.

WHO will work to improve treatment of malnutrition, strengthen cholera diagnostics, provide essential services, deploy psychologists and train outbreak response teams, while re-establishing services in hospitals, and working closely with Ministries of Health.

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