Nearly 64,000 Somali children to receive nutritional boost from UN agency

22 October 2008
Malnutrition is on the rise among displaced people south of Mogadishu

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to provide a highly nutritious, peanut-based food to some 64,000 children in Somalia over the next six months to combat the growing threat of malnutrition in the Horn of Africa nation that is currently in the grips of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

“Children are the first to suffer when food is scarce and conditions harsh, which is why we are taking this step to protect them from the ravages of the very worst stages of malnutrition,” said WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens.

This is the first time WFP has used “Supplementary Plumpy” – a peanut-based paste that requires no cooking or preparation and can be packaged easily – on a large scale. It has been shown that malnourished children who take a daily dose for two months, recover quickly, and are normally protected from malnourishment for a further four months.

“This specialised product is expensive, but worth every penny for its ability to save lives, particularly given the depth of current crisis in Somalia,” said Mr. Goossens.

The food shipment arrived in Kenya over the weekend and will be moved by air and road to Somalia, where it will be delivered through WFP’s existing network of feeding centres run by international, national and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Some 3.2 million people in Somalia, or around 43 per cent of the population, are in urgent need of food and other humanitarian assistance as a result of conflict, drought and successive poor harvests. WFP is expanding its operation to reach 2.4 million of those in need of food by the end of the year.

According to the agency, recent assessments indicate “critical” rates of malnutrition throughout south central Somalia and among internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the north.

In addition, increasing piracy off the Somali coast this year has made it essential to have naval escorts for ships carrying WFP food. Some 90 per cent of WFP’s food for Somalia arrives by sea.

The Canadian navy is just concluding its naval escorts and the Dutch navy is due to take over before the end of October, the agency reported. In addition, both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union have announced that they will be joining the effort to safeguard food deliveries to Somalia.

“Since November we’ve shipped more than 137,000 tons of food into Somalia under escort – food that is saving lives. Without the support of France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada, the situation in Somalia would be even worse right now,” Mr. Goossens said.

Continuing insecurity in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991, has also impacted relief efforts. The country has witnessed an increasing number of attacks against aid workers this year, including the killing of two local UN staff members in the past week.

Abdenasser Adan Muse, a senior programme assistant for WFP, was shot dead on Friday as he left a mosque in the town of Merka.

Then on Sunday, Mukhtar Mohammed Hassan, a water engineer working with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), was shot dead in Huddur as he walked with friends after attending the local mosque.

The attacks prompted condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, deplored such acts of violence against those trying to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people.

Today the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, issued a statement in which he deplored “the persistent threats, notably attacks and kidnappings, against civilians, aid workers and UN staff” in the troubled Horn of Africa country.

Dr. Bari urged Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to expeditiously and impartially investigate the attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“I’m strongly convinced that any lasting peace in Somalia should be built upon justice and accountability,” he said.


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