Somalia

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director urges stepped-up response to crisis in Somalia

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Somalia/ 2009/Morooka
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson visits the UNICEF-supported outpatient therapeutic centre in Berbera, north-western Somalia, which treats severely malnourished children by providing them medical treatment and weekly follow-ups.

NAIROBI, Kenya, 19 November 2009 – Time is running out for children in Somalia. The number of people affected by hunger and severe food insecurity has doubled in the last year to more than 3.6 million. Almost half are children. Without immediate funding, UNICEF will have to close many feeding centres for undernourished children.

“This is about making it possible for Somalia’s children to live and see the New Year,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson said after her recent visit to Somalia. She urged the international community to step up its response.

It is a paradox that funding is not forthcoming when it is needed the most – amidst a bigger crisis than the country has seen in several years. “When I asked the mothers in Somalia what is different this year, one of them said, ‘This is the worst year I can ever remember,’” she recalled.

Many of the families Ms. Johnson met had lost their livelihoods. “Yet UNICEF’s life-saving activities for children are only 38 per cent funded,” she said. “Only to sustain essential life-saving programmes, we need $10 million by the end of the year.”

Increasingly difficult environment
In Berbera, north-western Somalia, Ms Johnson visited families in the Jamalaaye camp for displaced people.

“We used to have 20 camels and 100 goats, but we lost all of them six months ago. There is no grass anymore for our cattle,” one grandmother, Waris Abdi, told her. “I lost three of my seven children due to diarrhoea and malnutrition,” said another woman, Kawsor Mohamed, at an outpatient therapeutic feeding centre.

Despite the increasingly difficult aid environment, UNICEF has managed to provide critical help to children and women. In just three years, working closely with partners on the ground, the agency helped triple the number of therapeutic feeding centres to the current level of about 400.

In addition, Child Health Days campaigns have reached around 1 million Somali children, and 800,000 women have received immunization, vitamin A supplementation and other health interventions. The campaigns have been conducted nationwide since 2008 – even in the most dangerous areas, such as the Afgoye Corridor.

“Due to the lack of funding, these Child Health Days may now be brought to a halt and feeding centres may have to close,” Ms Johnson warned.

Avoiding continuous crises
Yet Somalia is not unique. In six countries around the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and parts of Uganda, as well as Somalia and Kenya), some 24 million people are now in need of food aid and other humanitarian assistance. Nearly 5 million children under the age of five are now affected by food insecurity, and half a million children under five suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Somalia/2009
At the Outpatient Therapeutic Clinic in Berbera, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson talks to Waris Abdi, a grandmother who says her family lost 20 camels and 100 goats this year due to the drought. The family has been displaced after losing its livestock.

Against this backdrop, the aid efforts of both the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF are at risk due to serious funding shortfalls.

“To save children’s lives, adequate support needs to be provided both to families and to children,” said Ms. Johnson. “That is why funding WFP’s feeding programmes is so critical, in conjunction with UNICEF’s own programmes for children under five.

“At the same time, we have to tackle the root causes of this chronic crisis in the countries in the Horn of Africa,” Ms. Johnson continued. Humanitarian and long-term food security programmes need to be better aligned to address the underlying vulnerability in the region, she said. And this work has to be linked to the impact of climate change.

“We must avoid a situation of continuous crises, where whole communities are on life support,” Ms. Johnson concluded, referring to the work of the UN Secretary-General's High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, which now is focusing specifically on the situation in the Horn of Africa.


 

 

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