Sen. Frist heads to Kenya to study famine’s effects

More than 29,000 young children have died of malnutrition and disease in Somalia in the past 90 days. We are now on our way to the Horn of Africa to see what more we as a nation can do.

Early this morning, our plane left Washington, D.C., bound for East Africa. I’m flying with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Raj Shah to study the famine’s effects on the lives of more than 12 million people, many of them children.

In fact, it is now being called “the children’s famine.”

Over the years, I have delivered medical care in refugee camps on a number of trips, both to camps in Darfur, in Chad (right on the border of Sudan), and in boy soldier camps in southern Sudan. I went as a doctor. Providing age-appropriate health care to the compromised and malnourished children and adults is crucial to combat rapidly spreading disease and death.

It begins with identifying the specific needs, which we will be doing, then ensuring access, which is a challenge especially in Somalia.

Aid agencies estimate that more than $1 billion more is needed during this critical period to stop further deaths and get proper food, water and health care especially to the children who are most vulnerable.

In the camps we visit, I will focus on the vaccinations given for measles, polio and malaria; oral rehydration distributed to those suffering from diarrhea; and vitamins for children to bolster their immune systems. These are simple, cheap interventions to fight disease in the malnourished. I am eager to learn what is being accomplished and what more needs to be done. America has done a lot which has lessened the unfolding tragedy in the region, but there is a lot more we can do to reverse the course underway.

We will learn much over the next few days. I am on this trip to hear the stories of the families and their journeys, and I will share those stories with you.

Please sign the ONE petition today to urge world leaders to provide the full funding that the UN has identified as necessary to help people in the Horn of Africa, and please keep your promises to deliver the long term solutions which could prevent crises like this from happening again.