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Ready-to-use food distribution campaign for vulnerable children in Somalia

© UNICEF/2009/Ysenburg
UNICEF is distributing Plumpy’doz for the first time on a large scale across Somalia in an effort to reach more than 120,000 vulnerable children between the ages of 6 months and 36 months.

By Iman Morooka

BOSSASO AND BERBERA, Somalia, 16 March 2009 – At Buulo Mingis camp for the internally displaced people, located in Bossaso, in the north-east zone of Somalia, children and their caregivers have gathered to receive rations of Plumpy’doz, the latest generation of a ready-to-use food to prevent malnutrition among vulnerable children.

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Bossaso is one of the places in Somalia where tens of thousands of people displaced by ongoing conflict, drought and loss of livestock have sought refuge. It is also home to some of the country’s worst rates of malnutrition among both the displaced and host communities.

Malnutrition remains consistently and significantly above the emergency threshold in Somalia, with over 300,000 children are expected to be malnourished during 2009, a third of them severely malnourished. UNICEF is distributing Plumpy’doz for the first time on a large scale across the country, reaching more than 120,000 of the most vulnerable children between the ages of 6 months and 36 months.

In Bossaso, about 10,000 children in the camps for the displaced are being reached.

Ensuring child health with Plumpy’doz

“For three teaspoons of Plumpy’doz three times a day, each young child will receive all essential minerals, vitamins, high-quality protein and fats that are required to ensure growth and a healthy immune system, as well as additional calories and energy,” said UNICEF Somalia’s Chief of the Health and Nutrition, Dr. Suraya Dalil.

“Distribution of Plumpy’doz complements the available food assistance, to ensure that children receive all necessary nutrients to prevent occurring and recurring of malnutrition,” Dr. Dalil added.

Once enrolled in the programme, families with young children receive Plumpy’doz for eight months, in addition to Aquatab water-purification tablets and oral rehydration salts for the management of diarrhoeal dehydration.

Crucial for the community

At Jamalaaye camp in north-west Somalia, Plumpy’doz was distributed to 500 families during the last week of February. According to recent surveys, coastal communities in north-west Somalia are among the areas where levels of child malnutrition are alarmingly high.

For the next eight months, about 10,000 children in the north-west zone will benefit from the programme.

According to nurse Sado Jama Adam, who heads the Maternal and Child Health Centre in Jamalaaye, the food distribution campaign is crucial for the community. “This will help the Jamalaaye area, where there are so many poor people who lost their livelihood,” said the nurse. “At the Maternal and Child Health Centre, they are provided with services that help their children, such as this [food] distribution scheme, as well as the therapeutic feeding programme and immunization”.

Kowsar Jama Mire, a mother of three, has been living in Jamalaaye camp with her children after losing all her livestock after the drought. “I don’t have a husband who can provide for the family and I don’t have a job. Food assistance is my only source to feed my children,” she said. “We had very little to begin with, then we lost everything because of the drought.”

Treatment and preventative measures

With the deteriorating security environment in Somalia and shrinking space for the operation of humanitarian agencies, the implementation of such a large-scale campaign is challenging.

“Although this initiative is labour-intensive and costly, we believe that in extreme situations like Somalia, this is what we need to do,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault, who recently visited UNICEF-assisted projects in the country.

Against the backdrop of persistently high malnutrition rates, the new initiative complements UNICEF therapeutic feeding programmes implemented across the country to treat malnourished children. Through this campaign – 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 – UNICEF and its partners are taking action to not only treat but also to prevent malnutrition among children at risk.




February 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the distribution of Plumpy’doz to prevent malnutrition among young children in Somalia.
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