Somalia: Number of severely malnourished children to grow 50%

2nd May 2017

Somali children face triple threat of drought, disease and displacement

For photos and b-roll, visit: http://uni.cf/2p0TPgv

GENEVA/NAIROBI, 2 May 2017 – The projected number of children who are or will be acutely malnourished has shot up by 50 per cent since the beginning of the year to 1.4 million, including over 275,000 who have or will suffer life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in 2017.

Severely malnourished children are nine times more likely to die of killer diseases like cholera / acute watery diarrhea and measles, which are spreading. During the 2011 famine in Somalia that killed an estimated 260,000 – over half of them young children – the main causes of death among children were diarrhea and measles.

“UNICEF and partners have treated over 56,000 severely malnourished children so far this year – almost 90 per cent more than the same period in 2016,” said Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “But the combination of drought, disease and displacement are deadly for children, and we need to do far more, and faster, to save lives.”

Around 615,000 people, the vast majority of them women and children, have been displaced by drought since November 2016.

The Gu (April-June) rains are slowly unfolding, bringing much needed relief to parts of the country. But the rains also spell danger for children. If they come in full they will inflict further misery on children living in flimsy, makeshift shelters made of twigs and cloth or tarps. If the Gu rains fail, and if assistance doesn’t reach families, more people will be forced off their land into displacement camps. Outbreaks of malaria are already imminent, as is an upsurge of cholera.

“New population movements will further aggravate the situation. Those who remain at home need urgent assistance so that they do not need to flee; and those who have already fled, and are now in camps, are extremely vulnerable – children most of all,” Lauwerier said.

The women and children who make the trek, generally on foot, to places where they hope to find assistance, are often robbed or worse, both on the way to, and in camps. While there have been some reports of sexual abuse, including rape, most women do not come forward due to the stigma associated with rape and fear that their husbands will learn of it.   Perpetrators of sexual violence are seldom punished.

The drought has also forced some 40,000 children to stop attending classes, as the most vulnerable families enlist children to search for water, or as they migrate in search of food and water. There is anecdotal evidence of more children living on the street, and of displaced children being recruited into armed groups.

Early planning and funding has made a huge scale up in assistance possible. UNICEF and partners:

UNICEF has received $78.7 million of its $148 million appeal – a 47% gap in funding.

###

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF has been operating for 70 years.

Follow us on TwitterFacebook or Youtube or visit UNICEF Ireland’s website

For more information, please contact:

Aedín Donnelly, Communications and Media Manager for UNICEF Ireland | aedin@unicef.ie

Marixie Mercado, UNICEF Geneva, +4179 559 7172; mmercado@unicef.org

Susannah Price, UNICEF Somalia, + 254 722 719 867; sprice@unicef.org

Joe English, UNICEF New York, +1 917 893 0692 jenglish@unicef.org

 

Photo: A mother cares for her son who is being treated for cholera at a UNICEF-supported cholera treatment center in Baidoa, Somalia, Monday, April 3, 2017. More than 20,000 cases of cholera have been reported as of the end March. This is eight times higher than the number of cases reported at the same time last year. © UNICEF/UN059485/Knowles-Coursin