Historic Somali Joint Health and Nutrition Programme signed
NAIROBI, November 2013 - The Somali health authorities, along with three UN agencies and development partners, have renewed their resolve to work together to improve the health of mothers and children and to strengthen the Somalia Health Care System through a five year Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP) 2012-2016.
The multi donor and multi partner development programme will scale up the delivery of essential reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services for women, children and girls in particular. It will also build the Somali Health System by improving government leadership of the health sector, training and recruiting a skilled and motivated public sector health workforce and provide access to affordable quality health and nutrition services for 3.4 million Somalis.
Services supported by the JHNP are targeted in nine regions of Somalia in the programme’s initial phase. In particular 700,000 children under 5 and 335,000 pregnant or lactating women will have improved access to health and nutrition services. The programme’s longer term goal is to improve the health and nutrition status of Somali people and contribute to an overall reduction in maternal and child mortality. By the end of 2016, the aim is to reduce the maternal mortality rate by at least 10 per cent, the under-five mortality rate by 15 per cent; the percentage of underweight children by 10 per cent and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting by 10 per cent.
The Programme is led by the Somali Health Authorities with support from the joint UN partners – UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO. The current donors to this US$ 236 million Programme are the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Sweden, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) also made a significant contribution and has been particularly instrumental during the inception of, and well into, the programme. The World Bank and the Swiss agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) are also engaged.
The JHNP Programme documents were signed by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Minister for Human Development and Public Services, Dr Maryan Qasim together with the Puntland Minister of Health Dr Ali Warsame at the WHO office in Nairobi in October. The signing was witnessed by the UN Resident Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini, the UNICEF Somalia Representative, Sikander Khan, the WHO Representative Dr Ghulam Popal and UNFPA Representative Cheikh Tidiane Cisse. Sweden’s ambassador to Somalia Mikael Lindvall and the head of DFID Somalia, Joanna Reid signed on behalf of the donors. The Somaliland Minister of Health, Dr. Suleiman Essa Ahmed, who could not attend, signed the documents shortly after along with the Director of the USAID Regional Office Julia Henn representing the donors. A compact, articulating the commitment by all partners to strengthen the health system, was also signed.
Two decades of conflict have devastated Somalia’s health sector, leaving the country with some of the worst health and nutrition indicators in the world. An estimated 18 children out of every 100 die before their fifth birthday - almost one in five – which amounts to 70.000 deaths a year. The main causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhoea and measles - as well as infections and other problems in the first month of life. Poor hygiene and sanitation, and high rate of malnutrition among children have a direct correlation with high child mortality and morbidity in the country. In addition, every two hours a Somali woman loses her life due to pregnancy complications; this is far higher than the number of deaths due to conflict.
Every fourth Somali child (about 348,000 children) suffers from chronic under-nourishment, whereas every sixth child (more than 240,000) is severely acute under-nourished, leading to poor learning, growth retardation, increased health care costs and lower economic productivity. The Minister for Human Development and Public Services, Dr Maryan Qasim reaffirmed the commitment of the Government towards poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), thereby increasing resilience and the ability to address crisis situations in Somalia in a sustainable manner. She also thanked the UN agencies and the donors for their continued support to improve the health status of women and children.
“The task ahead of us is great and will require a huge amount of work but the task is not insurmountable,” she said. “We are ready for the task ahead and our signatures today signal this.”
The Somaliland Minister of Health, Mr Sulieman remarked: "The signing of the JHNP programme document and compact is an important event for the Somaliland Health Authorities. The JHNP Compact recognizes the important role of the authorities to increasingly take on governance and strengthen our health architecture."
The UN Resident Coordination Philippe Lazzarini said that the JHNP’s particular strength was its partnership with donors, UN Agencies and government agencies working in tandem.
“The JHNP is a flagship programme for development in Somalia. It is exemplary not just within the health sector, but across all sectors,” said Mr Lazzarini.