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UN grants nearly $2 million from new fund to stem disease in Horn of Africa

UN grants nearly $2 million from new fund to stem disease in Horn of Africa

The United Nations has granted nearly $2 million from its newly launched standing emergency fund to the World Health Organization (WHO) to quickly boost programmes to stem suffering and death as drought overwhelms the Horn of Africa.

With the $1.7 million grant, the second to be allocated from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), WHO will work to strengthen immunization campaigns, augment disease surveillance and train more health professionals in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Immediate funding for immunizations and surveillance will help us prevent unnecessary deaths,” said Margareta Wahlström, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“When we think of life-saving aid, vaccinations are often the first thing that comes to mind. In major emergencies such as the drought now affecting East Africa, diseases that cost less than one dollar to prevent, kill,” she added.

As of its 9 March launch, 36 donors had pledged $256 million to the CERF, a key reform of UN relief sought by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and endorsed by the 2005 World Summit to ensure swifter responses to humanitarian emergencies, with adequate funds made available within three to four days as opposed to up to four months or more under current arrangements.

The first CERF grant, $200,000 for the WHO in Côte d’Ivoire, is being used to provide emergency health and sanitation assistance in that country.

OCHA said that the allocation of CERF funds for WHO’s projects in East Africa is part of the global response to the drought, the worst in decades, which has effected 7.5 million people in an area where 18 million are already chronically undernourished while decimating livestock herds.

The UN will also launch a consolidated appeal for aid to the drought-stricken region on 7 April, in Nairobi, and additional CERF disbursements are currently under consideration, OCHA said.