Thousands of Somali children at risk of dying from malnutrition, UNICEF warns

13 September 2007

Some 13,500 children in central and southern Somalia are severely malnourished and at risk of dying, while nearly 70,000 others suffer from malnutrition, according to a new survey by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners in the strife-torn and flood- and drought-hit Horn of Africa country.

Some 13,500 children in central and southern Somalia are severely malnourished and at risk of dying, while nearly 70,000 others suffer from malnutrition, according to a new survey by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners in the strife-torn and flood- and drought-hit Horn of Africa country.

“These children urgently require attention to ensure that they survive,” UNICEF country representative Christian Balslev-Olesen said. “UNICEF is very concerned that their numbers might increase with continued civil strife, limited humanitarian access to these areas, food insecurity and a depressed economy.”

Malnutrition is not new to Somalia, a country which has been riven by factional fighting and has had no functioning central government since Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991.

But such critical levels in a region known as the country’s breadbasket are alarming and point to a deteriorating humanitarian situation. In fact, an earlier comprehensive nutrition survey conducted in May in the Middle and Lower Shabelle region bordering Mogadishu, the capital, had already indicated that 17 per cent of children under five years suffer from global acute malnutrition, above the UN World Health Organization (WHO) emergency threshold levels of 15 per cent.

“Children and families in this region have recently gone from one shock to another, and with the next flood season around the corner, it is important that peace-building efforts are intensified to ensure that UNICEF and its partners can address the underlying causes of these problems as well as the immediate needs,” Mr. Balslev-Olesen said.

UNICEF currently supports 60 selective feeding programmes in Central and Southern Somalia, treating about 15,000 malnourished children each month. But in order to scale up its activities and reach the thousands of additional children at risk, security issues must be tackled.

“We appeal to all parties involved to establish peace so that we can work with communities to meet the needs of these children,” Mr. Balslev-Olesen said.

Overall, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia has increased from 1 million to 1.5 million since January 2007. Most of those in need are children and women.

 

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