April Digital News Recap

A risk of famine in Kenya, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan prompted lots of social media activity in April. UN staffers on the leaderboard shared images, graphics and statistics to share information about the crisis- and the UN agencies that are working to address it.

James Elder, the UNICEF Regional Chief of Communication for East and Southern Africa, shared an image of a UNICEF aid worker providing assistance to a mother and child in Somalia:

Kent Page, UNICEF Strategic Communication Advisor for Emergencies, shared a series of images with his followers, including a photo of girls gathering water at a camp for displaced people in South Sudan and an emaciated child receiving a medical exam, reminding his followers of the very real possibility of starvation, especially for children, who make up a large proportion of the people at risk.

The root cause of the famine is severe drought, which has led to crop failure and rising food prices. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster last month and called for the support of the international community. UN agencies responding include UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the the World Food Programme (WFP).

Siddharth Chatterjee, the Resident Coordinator for Kenya, is particularly close to the ground in East Africa. He shared a graphic showing priority areas for malnutrition prevention across the country to combat emergency levels of malnutrition. Nearly half a million pregnant women and children in Kenya are acutely malnourished.

Former UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, who sits at the top of the UN Social 500 Leaderboard, called the attention of her 150k followers to the crisis and the response of UN agencies by retweeting Chatterjee’s post.

In March, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council, “We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN.” Without support for the coordinated efforts of UN agencies and other international organizations, many people in Kenya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia run the risk of starving to death or dying of preventable, malnutrition-related diseases. While underscoring the importance of aid workers to combat the crisis, Mr. O’Brien noted that political solutions are needed and humanitarian aid will not provide a long-term solution. “It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes. It is all preventable.”

Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien (second right) visiting South Sudan. Photo: OCHA/Gemma Connell

Unfortunately, these crises often go unnoticed by the general public. By sharing images, facts and their on the ground experiences combatting famine in the region, members of the UN Social 500 Leaderboard are doing their part to ensure this crisis has a human face and gets the attention it deserves.