UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Oxfam Campaigner, singer Angelique Kidjo will visit drought-affected Kenya

Published: 21 April 2006

Nairobi, 20 April, 2006 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Oxfam Campaigner, singer Angelique Kidjo, will be visiting Kenya to tour drought-affected communities and raise attention to the plight of children and their families who are trapped in a deadly cycle of drought and flood.

Ms. Kidjo, who will arrive in the country at the end of the week (April 23), will travel to communities in the Wajir district of Northeastern Kenya with UNICEF and international aid agency, Oxfam.

“I have been hearing and seeing footage of what is happening in the region, but I needed to see it for myself,” said Ms. Kidjo. “With all the gains that the world has made, this drought should not be having such a devastating impact. We cannot let this go on, and I am determined to show the world what is happening. If we don’t raise our voices now, the situation could so easily slip off the world’s radar.”

As a severe drought – the worst in a decade – ravages parts of East Africa and the Horn, appeals are going out to the world community to help approximately eight million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in southern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and central and southern Somalia. Two successive years of failed rains have triggered the crisis in the area, where agricultural and livestock productivity was already in decline due to chronic under-investment and successive drought emergencies.

While in Wajir, Angelique will visit the local district hospital and an outreach clinic providing life-saving support to children and pregnant women including food supplements and protection from disease through immunization, Vitamin A supplements and distribution of treated nets to prevent malaria. In the 10 worst drought-affected districts more than 73,000 children and over 6,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women are malnourished. The high incidence of malnutrition – affecting 30 per cent of children in some districts – is due to heavy losses of livestock in the drought.

Many pastoral communities in particular have been hard hit by the failed rains. The death of their livestock leaves them with nothing to exchange for food and other necessities. The failure of crops and the loss of cattle have meant that many communities have lost their livelihoods and are being forced to rely on food aid in order to survive.

The recent heavy rain in parts of East Africa will not bring a speedy end to the food crisis. In the short term they could actually make the situation worse by spreading disease and making it difficult for food aid to get to affected communities. Worse still, the few surviving animals are very frail and unable to shake the rainwater from their coats. Thousands are likely to die of exposure in the cold nights.

A one day visit to the northern eastern region of Wajir, will give Ms. Kijdo the opportunity to meet communities who have lost large herds of cattle and continue to face long-term food shortages. She will hear first hand the insurmountable challenges that many pastoralists are facing in trying to protect their children, access food aid and help their herds recover.

Contact Information

For further information, please contact:
Sara Cameron, UNICEF Communications: Tel: 254 20 622977 Cell: 254 722 585262
Brenda Kariuki, UNICEF Communications: Tel: 254 20 624555 Cell: 254 722 880067
Anastasia Mutisya, Oxfam Communications: Tel: 254 20 2820220 Cell: 0733 792674
Beatrice Karanja, Oxfam Communications: Tel: 254 20 2820136. Cell: 0733 632810

For New York interviews, please contact:
Kate Donovon, UNICEF Communications: Tel: 212-326-7452. Cell: 917-378-2128
Caroline Green, Oxfam Communications: Tel: 202 496 1174 Cell: 202 321 7858