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Millions Vulnerable as UN Confirms Famine Spreading in Somalia

Tuesday 6 September 2011, 8:03PM
By UNICEF New Zealand
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Six areas of Somalia are now officially in famine with 750,000 people in those areas at risk of death in the coming months unless there is an urgent response. UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) estimates that tens of thousands of people have already died in Somalia, half of them children, with the situation likely to deteriorate further.

There are estimated to be 1.5 million children in the south of Somalia who need immediate humanitarian assistance. In Bay area, the newest region to be declared as famine affected, malnutrition rates are nearly four times the WHO emergency threshold, with half of all children acutely malnourished.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ said, “As famine continues to spread in south Somalia it’s evident that this truly is a crisis for child survival, with millions of children in need of urgent help.

“In addition to a lack of food and water, malnourished children are susceptible to killer diseases including diarrhoea and pneumonia with epidemics of measles and malaria expected when the October rains come.

“The situation is grim with many children in desperate condition and on the brink of death, but this is not a lost cause. UNICEF is delivering for children and we have the ability to save more lives if we can secure the funding needed to continue to scale up our efforts supporting the most desperate populations within Somalia.”

UNICEF works in every region in the south of Somalia through a network of 70 partners and deploys third party monitors to ensure that supplies reach children. The children’s agency recently organised the first relief flights in two years to land outside of the capital Mogadishu, with the objective being to provide aid in communities before people move on. For those who have already moved UNICEF is helping people at transit areas and within camps.

UNICEF also operates 800 feeding centres across Somalia, including 500 in the South, with the aim reach 17,000 severely malnourished children a month. UNICEF’s main area for scale up is blanket supplementary feeding, which means reaching every child and their family in target areas to cover the gap in food aid – a total of 1.2million families over the next six months.

Immunization campaigns are already underway with UNICEF planning to vaccinate two million children up to the age of 15 against measles in Somalia. In addition, UNICEF is extending the provision of safe water and access to sanitation to over 1.8 million people by drilling boreholes, water trucking and providing water vouchers.

"UNICEF is making a big difference to people suffering in Somalia through a variety of support mechanisms including getting aid into the south of the country, immunizing children against deadly diseases and providing clean water and sanitation,” McKinlay added.

“Support from generous New Zealanders is allowing UNICEF to upscale and save lives and so far we have raised a total of $500,000. But as the clock ticks, more children are at risk of dying from severe malnutrition and diseases, plus famine is expected to spread to more areas of Somalia by the end of the year.

“We desperately need more help to stop the situation getting worse. Please consider what you can share today with those who have nothing,” said McKinlay.

Famine is expected to spread further by December 2011 in agropastoral and riverine areas of Gedo and Juba, and agropastoral areas of Middle Shabelle and Hiran. UNICEF’s total funding requirements for the emergency response stand at over US$360 million until the end of 2011. There is still a shortfall of over $90m. UNICEF NZ urgently needs funds - please donate now at www.unicef.org.nz or call 0800 800 194.