The drought consuming the Horn of Africa is the worst in 60 years, resulting in the most dire food security crisis in more than two decades, UNICEF officials estimate.
Several local and national organizations, including the United Nations Children's Fund, are imploring people to help, and doing so can be as simple as an online donation, text message or even a Facebook post to make others aware.
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"This is an ongoing emergency and it's getting worse and worse by the day," said Casey Marsh, director for the Midwest Regional Office in Chicago of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "There are nearly 800,000 children at imminent risk of death, and if they don't receive immediate lifesaving attention, they will die."
Marsh said the plight affecting 11 million people, including 2.3 million young children, is the result of a perfect storm of problems: severe drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, escalating food and gas prices, and political unrest, including the ongoing civil war in Somalia.
Here are a few ways you can help:
• UNICEF officials say a $10 donation can feed a child for 10 days. The organization also is providing essential medicines and vaccines, and its workers are drilling wells, trucking in water and teaching hygiene. To donate, visit unicefusa.org or text FOOD to UNICEF (864233) to contribute $10.
• Bright Hope is a Hoffman Estates-based organization that helps the extreme poor through an area's indigenous church. It administers a "most urgent needs" fund to meet pressing crises, including the East Africa famine. The recommended donation is $50. To help, call (224) 520-6100 or visit brighthope.org.
• Feed My Starving Children is a nonprofit Christian organization that organizes volunteers to hand-pack meals specifically designed for malnourished children, and ship them to nearly 70 countries. It has packing locations in Schaumburg and Aurora, and is stepping up its response to the Horn of Africa. Officials say a meal costs just 24 cents to produce and that 93 percent of donations directly support the food program. To donate $10, text MANNA to 50555 or visit fmsc.org, where you can also sign up to pack meals.