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UN report finds crisis in Somalia at its worst in two decades

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0639/Kamber
A woman holds her son in a camp for displaced people in the central Somali region of Galguduud, where recent fighting has displaced almost a half million people, forcing over 1.4 million to live in temporary camps lacking basic services.

NEW YORK, USA, 26 August 2009 – A new report confirms a stark picture of the situation facing children and families in Somalia, where UNICEF has been stymied in its efforts to slow a surge in malnutrition in parts of the country most affected by escalating violence.

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The latest data from UN Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia concludes that the crisis is at its worst level in almost two decades. According to the report, more than half of the Somali population – about 3.76 million people – is dependent on humanitarian aid, while one in five children is acutely malnourished.

“The latest report is telling us there has been a significant increase, 40 per cent in the last six months, of people in need of humanitarian assistance,” said UNICEF Representative in Somalia Rozanne Chorlton.

Setbacks in aid work
The uptick in need coincides with a surge in violence, particularly in areas where food insecurity is most severe. Ms. Chorlton noted that UNICEF and its partners have suffered “setbacks” in their efforts to deliver aid and health interventions to those in the greatest need.

“It is increasingly difficult, both from the point of view of staff safety and also from the point of view of the security of our supplies,” she said. “ We’re having to rethink the way that we work, to move our supplies immediately from port to partners without storing them for any length of time [which] makes them all the more vulnerable.”

A UNICEF compound in the central part of the country was looted in May, as was a World Food Programme warehouse storing UNICEF supplies just a week ago.

School year in jeopardy
Though nominally run by a UN-backed government, Somalia is still a place of violent conflict. Recent warfare in the capital, Mogadishu, has resulted in the displacement of nearly 1.5 million people who are now living in camps in the central regions. Another 1.4 million are in need of food aid due to an ongoing drought in the north.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0631/Kamber
A father comforts his son on an examination table at a hospital in Galguduud. The hospital, serving an area with tens of thousands of people, has neither a full-time doctor nor any modern health care equipment.

UNICEF’s network of local partners has allowed some critical interventions to continue amid the instability.

“We’re still able to provide supplementary feeding support to around 82,000 children every month,” said Ms. Chorlton, noting that a vaccination, de-worming and oral rehydration campaign is currently under way.

As thousands of UN and African Union soldiers try to stabilize the situation and end the fighting, UNICEF’s focus is on the beginning of the school year, the UNICEF Representative noted.

“We still provide supplies to schools,” she said, “but one of the things we are concerned about now is whether or not schools will be able to reopen as planned in September.”




26 August 2009: UNICEF Representative in Somalia Rozanne Chorlton discusses the growing malnutrition crisis in Somalia.
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