UNICEF also sounded the alarm on a looming climate-induced humanitarian crisis that it said is also taking a toll on the health of children in the region.
Etleva Kadilli, UNICEF’s regional director for eastern and southern Africa, said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, that the climate crisis is not a distant threat but an immediate danger to the well-being of children in the region.
"The impact of climate change on children is a stark reminder that urgent action is needed to address the root causes of the crisis and facilitate sustainable solutions to help children through this," she said. "Our collective responsibility is to protect the most vulnerable and build a sustainable future for all."
According to UNICEF, needs are escalated by projections indicating a strong likelihood of robust El Nino impacts such as floods lasting through early 2024 and drought that is forecasted to persist through most of 2024.
It said the strength of El Nino is expected to be comparable to the top six strongest events in recorded history, increasing the likelihood of extreme weather and climate hazards.
UNICEF said the 1.4 billion dollars will enable it to continue funding its humanitarian response in 2024, which includes preventing and treating waste through a continuum of care of children and mothers, and prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases through health facilities.
It said droughts, erratic rainfall, and water scarcity are compromising water sources, leading to inadequate sanitation facilities and hygiene practices.
"The time to act is now. As the climate crisis intensifies, it threatens the well-being and survival of children and young people," Kadilli said.
UNICEF said the region is grappling with decreased crop yields, affecting the availability and affordability of nutritious food.
"Children face an increased risk of malnutrition, stunting, and developmental issues, further perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality," UNICEF said.
Between January and September this year, 24 percent more children were treated for severe wasting compared to the same period in 2022, according to UNICEF.