|A woman feeds a child a ready-to-eat therapeutic food at a displacement camp in the city of Jowhar, Somalia.|
NEW YORK, USA, 13 August 2009 – UNICEF has been forced to delay delivery of crucial nutritional supplies after looters targeted the warehouse of a UNICEF partner in the lower Juba region.
The loss of some 246 tons of preventive nutritional products and 640 tons of therapeutic feeding supplies follows the theft and destruction of many other humanitarian supplies and communications equipment at a key UNICEF compound in Jowhar three months ago.
UNICEF Representative Rozanne Chorlton said that while political instability is certainly an underlying factor of recent acts of hostility towards UNICEF and partners, there is also a criminal element in the looting, as therapeutic food supplements can easily be sold.
“Many of these supplies need to be very carefully administered so they need people with technical qualifications who can make sure the children are given the right amount. So even if those items have been sold or further distributed they could still be putting children at risk,” said Ms. Chorlton.
Still time to recover
The supplies in question were intended to reach more than 85,000 Somali children in central and southern Somalia who are suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition.
Somalia has one of the world’s highest rates of infant malnutrition and mortality. One out of every six children is acutely malnourished and one in every ten children dies before their first birthday.
“If we are delayed by only a week or ten days, that’s still all right – we can still manage to recover the ground we’ve lost,” said Ms. Chorlton. “ But once it gets to a month or two, then the children would be in danger.”
Distribution of bednets to prevent malaria to more than 100,000 women and children has also been disrupted.
Need for security assurances
Nearly half of Somalia’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance. Mounting insecurity in the once relatively stable north, combined with escalating violence in the capital and an ongoing crisis of displacement make the work of UNICEF and other aid organizations absolutely vital.
More than 100 non-governmental and community-based organizations rely on UNICEF supplies and technical assistance to provide a range of services to Somalia’s women and children, who are confronted with insurgency, drought and terrorism as well physical displacement.
Many aid programmes are still operational in those parts of the country where local authorities are able to guarantee security. But continued security breaches have a grave effect on this essential network of supply, distribution and expertise.
“We just need concrete assurances from local authorities in all the places where we’re trying to operate either directly or through partners, that the products that we bring in will not be stolen and that the compounds will not be looted,” said Ms. Chorlton.
“We need also to be sure that all development assistance organizations are able to operate unhindered in delivering humanitarian life-saving services to children and women.”
13 August 2009:
UNICEF Representative for Somalia Rozanne Chorlton calls for security guarantees.