DUBLIN / HARGEISA, 03 June 2017 – UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power has described as ‘upsetting and shocking’ conditions in northern Somalia, where he has travelled to see the impact of the country’s food crisis on children.
Somalia is currently one level below famine status on an international scale used by humanitarians to assess famine-risk. Peter Power is visiting critically malnourished children at clinics in remote areas that have not received aid.
Peter Power spent time with a critically ill infant called Hassan (pictured). Eight-month-old Hassan is suffering from the life-threatening stage of malnutrition known as Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). He has been sick since he was six months old but took a turn for the worst in recent weeks. Thankfully, Mum Ugaso (25) was able to get him referred to a stabilisation clinic for malnourished children with complications and he is now getting the treatment he needs. He has a 93% chance of survival, but is not out of the woods yet. Sadly, Mum Ugaso has already lost a son though – Hassan had a twin brother who died when he was just two months old.
Even if a child survives after treatment for SAM, it is likely they will suffer permanent damage. Consequently, UNICEF’s nutritional experts are working tirelessly to prevent children’s descent into that final stage of potentially fatal SAM.
UNICEF Ireland has issued an emergency appeal for funds. Children need food, water, and medicine & vaccinations that will protect them from deadly diseases like cholera, measles and diarrhoea.
UNICEF expects to treat 275,000 children in Somalia for SAM this year. SAM is what aid workers call malnutrition when it gets to the life-threatening stage. Children who get proper treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition have a 93% survival rate. In total, 1.4 million children in this country are at risk of malnutrition.
Somalia’s food crisis was caused by the failure of rains six months ago. Farmers lost their livestock and families were forced to leave their homes in search of better conditions. Some parts of the country are experiencing conflict, which is creating access difficulties and further displacement.
Peter Power has been reacting to what he has seen on the ground: “Famine, conflict and displacement are conditions Irish people know well. 1.4 million children are acutely malnourished and more than a quarter of a million could starve. The scenes I have witnessed are distressing.”
“In the Somalia famine of 2011, 130,000 children died before the aid community confirmed the country was experiencing a famine. In 2017, the children of Somalia cannot wait for aid” he added.
The dire situation in Somalia is replicated in South Sudan, which the United Nations declared to be officially in famine last February. UNICEF is also deeply concerned for children in the Greater Horn of Africa, in Nigeria and in Yemen who are all caught up in a food crisis of frightening proportions.
UNICEF is the United Nations’ organisation for children. UNICEF fights for children’s rights and promotes the well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories taking practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF has been in operation for 70 years.
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Aedín Donnelly, Communications and Media Manager for UNICEF Ireland | firstname.lastname@example.org | +353 85 1395272