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UNICEF warns of critical levels of malnutrition amongst Somali children

NAIROBI, 12 September 2007 - Following a recent nutrition survey, UNICEF and its partners estimate that 83,000 children in central and southern Somalia suffer from malnutrition - 13,500 of whom are severely malnourished and at risk of dying.

“These children urgently require attention to ensure that they survive,” said UNICEF Representative to Somalia Christian Balslev-Olesen. “UNICEF is very concerned that their numbers might increase with continued civil strife, limited humanitarian access to these areas, food insecurity and a depressed economy,” he added.

Malnutrition is not new to Somalia, however such critical levels in a region known as the country’s breadbasket are alarming and point to a deteriorating humanitarian situation. In fact, an earlier comprehensive nutrition survey conducted in May in Middle and Lower Shabelle (bordering Mogadishu) had already indicated that 17 per cent of children under five years of age suffer from global acute malnutrition – a figure that is above WHO emergency threshold levels (>15 per cent).

“Children and families in this region have recently gone from one shock to another” said Balslev-Olesen, “and with the next flood season around the corner, it is important that peace building efforts are intensified to ensure that UNICEF and its partners can address the underlying causes of these problems as well as the immediate needs.”

UNICEF currently supports 60 selective feeding programmes in Central and Southern Somalia. These centres treat about 15,000 malnourished children each month. But in order to scale up its activities and reach the thousands of additional children at risk, issues of  security must be tackled.

“We appeal to all parties involved,” stressed Balslev-Olesen “to establish peace so that we can work with communities to meet the needs of these children.”

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia has increased from one million to 1.5 million since January 2007. Most of those in need are children and women.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Pictures available upon request.

For interviews, please call: 
Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Representative, +254 722 514 569 or +254 733 629 933
Nuradin Derie (for interviews in Somali), +254 722 582 646

For further information, please contact:
Misbah Sheikh, OIC Communication, UNICEF Somalia Support Center, Tel: +254 20 762-3958
Mob: +254 736 397 771, Email: msheikh@unicef.org




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