UNICEF yesterday airlifted emergency nutrition supplies and water-related equipment to Baidoa, Bay region in southern Somalia, as part of its life-saving interventions to assist drought-affected children in Somalia and more supplies are en-route.
The most severe humanitarian emergency in the world has been declared in the Horn of Africa, with Somalia being the epicentre of the crisis. Over half a million children in Somalia are acutely malnourished and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The south, currently in a very critical humanitarian situation, is worst affected, hosting 80 per cent of all malnourished children. In some areas of the south, one in three children is acutely malnourished.
“Yesterday UNICEF airlifted to Baidoa 5 metric tons of essential nutrition supplies, including therapeutic food and medicine to treat severely malnourished children, and equipment to supply clean water to the camp for displaced people in Baidoa. Health supplies are also airlifted via Mogadishu, consisting of health kits with essential medicines to treat common childhood illnesses, such as respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, minor injuries and worm infestation, for 10 health facilities to reach up to 100,000 people over a period of 3 months” said UNICEF Representative to Somalia, Rozanne Chorlton. “We are ready to work anywhere in Somalia, provided we get unhindered access to reach the most vulnerable children in need” she said.
Somalia is the epicentre of this disaster because an extremely fragile situation, characterised by conflict and insecurity, has escalated at the same time as climatic and price changes were hitting hard on the population.
Children who are severely malnourished are at nine times more likely to die than healthy children and even children who are moderately malnourished have a significantly higher risk of dying. Malnutrition robs the child of vital micronutrients that are essential to their growth and development, and makes children more susceptible to disease. Where it does not kill, malnutrition can leave permanent scars; it can leave a child physically and intellectually damaged and suffering from the consequences of a weakened immune system.
Between January and May, UNICEF and its partners treated over 100,000 acutely malnourished children, through almost 800 nutrition centres across Somalia. Of these 460 children were reported to have died (on average 90 per month), with over 86% of mortality cases reported from central south regions. The startling tragedy is that these children constitute reported cases only; many more children may be dying before reaching the feeding centres.
Children don’t die just because they don’t have enough food. They are dying or are affected for the rest of their lives because they are more prone to sickness and disease, drinking contaminated water, not being vaccinated and with poor diets. All of these conditions are worsening now and are aggravated when families are forced to move.
“Resolving the lack of food aid and other resources to address food insecurity in the south is of utmost urgency to alleviate the impact of the current crisis. However, food alone is not enough. Children and their families need health services, clean water, nutrition and an adequate level of care and protection.” said Ms. Chorlton.
In addition to the on-going airlifted interventions that UNICEF has been supporting without interruption in most of central and southern Somalia, including the operation of over 500 therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres for treating acutely malnourished children, UNICEF is scaling up its response to address the current crisis.