NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 17 – As the humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate the United Nations Children’s Fund has called on the international community to provide a stronger and more comprehensive commitment in addressing the current needs of Somalia.
Since the beginning of 2008, the population in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia has increased by 77 per cent. In addition to the ongoing conflict and the deteriorating food security situation, the Somali population currently faces significant hardships caused by the unusually prolonged and harsh dry season particularly affecting Central and Southern regions, diminishing both the food supply and livelihoods of pastoralists.
"Children are the most vulnerable in the current situation of severely strained livelihoods. During 2009, it is expected that more than 300,000 children will be acutely malnourished, among them 96,000 severely malnourished. Our continuous efforts to deliver both preventive and treatment services to vulnerable children are extremely crucial," UNICEF"s representative to Somalia Christian Balslev-Olesen said.
According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU), global acute malnutrition levels are already significantly above the emergency threshold at 18.6 per cent. In Central Somalia, malnutrition levels are very critical above 20 per cent, while in Bossaso- Northeast Somalia- malnutrition rates are alarmingly high above 27 per cent among the displaced populations. Regions in the South are also hit by severe water shortages affecting food security for pastoral populations.
Shortage of water and lack of proper water and sanitation facilities resulted in outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea in several places with cases of death reported. The burden of water-related diseases is particularly high among children under five.
"Extreme poverty, lack of governance and continuous civil insecurities in Somalia have led to serious problems that are also affecting other countries such as population displacement and rampant sea piracy. While it is crucial that the international community tackles insecurities in the Somali waters, it is also essential that more investments are made in-country to provide not only life-saving services but also longer term recovery and development programmes." said Balslev-Olesen.
UNICEF’s ability to implement and up-scale its programmes for children and women of Somalia is severely limited by the serious shortage in funding for 2009, with only 15 per cent of its portion of the Somalia consolidated humanitarian appeal requirements of about $80 million funded as of mid-April. Balslev-Olesen mentions: "Donor contributions to date in 2009 are not keeping pace with the scale of humanitarian needs that require us to scale up our interventions. So far we have been tapping into our internal loan mechanisms to keep our programmes going until June, however further delay in receipt of funds places extreme limitations on our ability to deliver services and reach new pockets of emergency needs"
Despite difficult circumstances and limited access to certain locations, UNICEF and partners have succeeded in delivering major and large scale programmes on the ground. The nation-wide Child Health Days campaign is currently being implemented across Somalia, aiming to reach at least 90 per cent of all children under-five and 60 per cent of all women of child bearing age with a package of high impact life-saving health interventions.
Additionally, there are about 130,000 highly vulnerable children aged between six and 36 months benefiting in all zones of Somalia from the distribution of a ready-to-use food, Plumpy’doz, to prevent acute malnutrition among vulnerable populations. UNICEF- with partners- continues to provide access to health and nutrition services, safe water and sanitation, quality primary and non-formal education, protection of vulnerable children, as well as creating opportunities for youth participation in community recovery efforts.
"We are sending an urgent request to our donors for their generous support towards these emergency interventions, especially in view of the ongoing prolonged drought in Central and Southern Somalia to mitigate its negative impact on women and children" added Balslev-Olesen.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.
The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.