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UNICEF encouraged by Mogadishu meeting on humanitarian access

Somali government appeals to UN to help affected populations

MOGADISHU, 21 September 2007- On the eve of the International Day of Peace, a delegation from the UN agencies met with the President and Prime Minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to discuss improving security and access to humanitarian aid for tens of thousands displaced by the ongoing insurgency in Mogadishu.

The number of people in need of assistance has risen from half a million to 1.5 million in the past eight months, according to UNICEF Somalia.

The central south, and more specifically the Shabelles region, known as the country’s breadbasket, has seen a deteriorating humanitarian and nutrition situation over the past year. The region’s children are facing malnutrition that surpasses WHO’s emergency threshold, with over 17 per cent of the under-five population suffering from global acute malnutrition.

“Both the UN and the Government are very concerned about the deteriorating security and economic situation in the region,” said UNICEF’s Representative to Somalia, Christian Balslev-Olesen. “As we speak, there are some 13,500 children in Middle and Lower Shabelle who risk death from malnutrition, but there just aren’t enough feeding centers or adequate access to all areas to ensure the speedy and safe delivery of supplies,” he added.

The meeting between the UN and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government came at the start of the rainy season that has already caused rivers in downstream Somalia – the Shabelle region – to flood. Close to 40,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea/cholera, including 1,200 deaths have been reported this year.

“People have not been able to plant their fields, feed their children. Food production has been hit in a dramatic fashion. There has been a substantial increase in the number of people fleeing the conflict from Mogadishu and now the Shabelles are faced with the imminent threat of flooding as river banks have not been maintained due to conflict and the lack of local capacity,” said Balslev-Olesen.

“We need the assistance of the international community,” said Maxamed Cumar Deele, the Governor of Middle Shabelle, “so that they can work with communities in a sustained manner to help us help ourselves.”

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.

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