Cholera / Photo: AA

The cholera outbreak in eastern and southern Africa isn’t just an outbreak -- it’s an emergency for children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday.

In a statement, UNICEF called for flexible funding to help not just protect more children and communities in need but devise more resilient systems to protect children in the future.

“For children, the risk is high,” it said, warning that the needs in affected communities in eastern and southern Africa are growing.

The agency appealed for $171 million to respond to the increasing needs of 28 million people, including children and families in the region impacted by cholera.

The funds will be allocated toward the provision of lifesaving water, sanitation and hygiene, health, risk communication, nutrition, child protection and education services for women and children affected by the outbreak.

It said while generous partners have already contributed $18.3 million to support the cholera response, a regional funding gap needs to be swiftly bridged to broaden an effective response.

“Help us eradicate cholera and remove this burden from children and families who are already carrying too much,” UNICEF said.

The worst cholera outbreaks to hit the region in years have been reported in 11 countries including Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Roughly 67,822 cases have been recorded with 1,788 estimated deaths, according to the UN agency's recent data.

The current cholera epidemics are spreading in a context of extreme climatic events such as severe drought in the greater Horn of Africa and seasonal rains and tropical storms in southern Africa, according to the World Health Organization.