Somalia, 16 September 2011: The most difficult place to grow up – Somalia has the world’s highest child mortality rate
NAIROBI, Kenya, 16 September 2011 – Stricken by chronic conflict and recurring drought for decades, Somalia now has the world’s highest mortality rate for children under the age of five, according to the latest data released by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.
The group’s report, ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality,’ published on Thursday, finds that preventable deaths of young children have dropped by 35 per cent worldwide since 1990. The findings also show that the decline is accelerating globally. Somalia’s child mortality rate in 2010, stood at 180 deaths per 1,000 live births which now ranks worst in the world.
“Even before this current crisis, one in six children was dying before their fifth birthday. Now we anticipate this number of deaths will be even greater,” said Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Representative in Somalia. “There is no doubt that Somalia is one of the toughest places for a child to survive.”
Six areas in southern Somalia have been declared famine zones by the UN: Lower Shabelle region, parts of Bakool and Middle Shabelle, Bay region and the IDP settlements in the Afgoye corridor and Mogadishu. In central and south Somalia, 750,000 people are at imminent risk of death and 1.5 million children need immediate humanitarian assistance – including 336,000 children under the age of five who are acutely malnourished.
The highest rate of global acute malnutrition is in Bay region, at 58 per cent, nearly four times the emergency threshold of 15 per cent set by the World Health Organization. With the onset of rains in the coming months, the risk of disease outbreaks, like malaria and pneumonia, is likely to increase mortality even further. High prevalence of acute malnutrition dramatically increases a child’s risk of getting infections and can lead to death. Already during August in South and Central Somalia, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of reported cases of measles (1,903 cases), pneumonia (over 9,500 cases) and acute water diarrhoea (7,109 cases). These, as well as malaria, are expected to increase in October during the deyr rains.
Children in Somalia have faced an on-going crisis long before the recent famine declaration. As of last year, less than a third of one-year-olds were immunized against deadly vaccine-preventable diseases, over 70 per cent of the population lacked access to safe water, and just 3 out of 10 children of primary school age were enrolled in school. With the escalation of the emergency in 2011, UNICEF has stepped up its existing nutrition, health and education interventions in Somalia. Still, Somali children require greater global support to meet their urgent needs.
“To make sure we save children’s lives, we need a serious investment in Somalia’s future to make sure that anything like the current crisis never happens again. Such investment needs to begin with children, who are always the first to suffer during times of famine and hardship,” Ms. Chorlton added.
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