UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes visits projects in Somalia

© UNICEF Somalia/2009/Ysenburg
At a UNICEF-supported school at the Jamalaaye settlement for displaced people in Berbera, north-west Somalia, a girl shows her textbooks to Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault.

By Iman Morooka

NAIROBI, Kenya, 4 March 2009 – UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault has returned from a visit to Somalia, where he saw firsthand the situation of children and women, and efforts to provide them with life-saving aid and critical services.

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During his three-day visit last week, Mr. Arsenault met with displaced people who have fled from their homes across Somalia due to ongoing conflict, drought and other hardships. An estimated 1.3 million Somalis have been displaced and are enduring dire conditions.

For people who have been away from their homes for months or years, meeting even basic needs such as food and water is challenging.

Humanitarian and development aid

In Bossaso, north-east Somalia, Mr. Arsenault visited the Buulo Mingis displacement camp, where Plumpy'doz – a ready-to-use therapeutic food – was being distributed for children under the age of three as a preventive measure against malnutrition.

© UNICEF Somalia/2009/Ysenburg
Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault talks to women at the Buulo Mingis camp for displaced people, located in Bossaso, north-east Somalia.

Based on recent surveys conducted by the Food Security Analysis Unit in Somalia, over 300,000 children will be malnourished there this year – 96,000 of them severely malnourished. It is also estimated that almost half of the population, or more than 3 million people, will need humanitarian assistance.

"There is a striking humanitarian crisis in Bossaso, where there are tens of thousands of people who have come from across the country due to different conflicts," said Mr. Arsenault. "UNICEF has been working very hard with other partners to support these populations.

"UNICEF's work in Somalia is a mixture of humanitarian work and also early recovery, as well as development," he added. "Our presence is critical where children are in dire situations ... and there is still a lot that needs to be done."

UNICEF is implementing a large-scale Plumpy'doz distribution campaign targeting about 90,000 of the most vulnerable children across Somalia – in addition to its ongoing therapeutic feeding programmes for moderately and severely malnourished children. The distribution is made possible by contributions from the Governments of Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the multi-donor Central Emergency Response Fund.

'A long-term commitment'

In Jamalaaye camp, currently hosting 500 families in the north-western coastal town of Berbera, Mr. Arsenault visited education, nutrition, and water and sanitation projects supported by UNICEF.

© UNICEF Somalia/2009/Ysenburg
Displaced women and children of the Buulo Mingis settlement in Bossaso line up to receive rations of Plumpy'doz ready-to-use therapeutic food distributed by UNICEF and its partners

On the itinerary was a visit to the UNICEF-assisted Hassan Ali Henry Primary school, which provides education to about 230 children, half of whom are children from the camp and the rest from the host community. Before the establishment of this school, most children in the Jamalaaye area could not receive education or had to walk at least 2 km to the nearest school.

UNICEF is providing the school with teaching and learning materials, as well as teacher training.

Berbera is also where an innovative, sustainable water project has been successfully developed with strong community representation. The new system, initiated by UNICEF in 2008, has increased the safe water supply by 30 per cent for residents of Berbera and surrounding areas, including the displaced population. It is part of a larger project, European Union-supported initiative that is being implemented in seven urban centres around Somalia.

"I think it is important that the international community has a long-term commitment to Somalia," said Mr. Arsenault. "There are a whole range of issues that need to be addressed much more comprehensively if we want development and peace taking place in Somalia."




February 2009: UNICEF correspondent Becca Journey reports on Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault's visit to UNICEF programmes in Somalia.
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