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Joint news note

Massive push to protect populations from malaria in Somalia’s south central regions

NAIROBI, Kenya, 14 October 2011 - An estimated two and a half million people in Somalia, already suffering from drought, famine and conflict, are at risk of contracting malaria with the start of the rainy season.  To prevent a malaria epidemic and deaths, especially among malnourished young children and internally displaced populations, a massive response is underway.

UNICEF, WHO and partners are scaling up the response to a potential malaria outbreak with funding from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and the UK Department for International Development. 

"The health of many Somalis is already extremely compromised due to the drought and famine, especially children suffering from malnutrition. With the rains come an increased risk of malaria," said Sikander Khan, UNICEF Somalia Representative. "We must act as swiftly as possible to prevent deaths due to this deadly disease. We are working with our partners on prevention as well as providing treatment services as necessary."

To protect children and their families from contracting malaria, 280,000 long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) will be distributed in the next few weeks to over 140,000 households in the drought affected regions of Hiran, Lower and Middle Shabelles and Lower and Middle Jubas in South Central Somalia, targeting people living in the most high risk areas. This is in addition to the 79,000 nets which have already been distributed since July.

In the overcrowded informal settlements of Mogadishu, where nets are not practical, a first round of indoor spraying that aims to reach 45,000 households will take place over the next month. This will protect households from transmission for three to four months and will be followed by a second round of spraying in March and April next year.

In addition, partners are conducting campaigns to educate families about how malaria is transmitted, how to prevent getting malaria and where to seek care if someone contracts the disease.

As part of equipping health facilities with the capacity to diagnose and treat cases, 560,000 doses of effective anti-malaria drugs known as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) and one million rapid diagnostic tests will be provided to health facilities, community level health posts and additional service delivery points established by partners.

“With these investments in prevention and treatment, and by encouraging people to seek treatment quickly, we can avoid the tragic impact malaria has on people’s lives.” said Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund.

More than 950,000 nets have been distributed in Somalia with funding made available through the Global Fund since 2002. The number of malaria cases in Somalia has decreased dramatically during recent years, from an estimated 1.73 million cases in 2005 to approximately 740,000 cases in 2009 - a 57 per cent drop.

The UK Department for International Development is also supporting this large-scale emergency response to malaria amidst the on-going drought and famine in Somalia to ensure adequate supplies of commodities to fight the disease.

Global Fund in Somalia
Besides supporting HIV/ TB/ Malaria control programmes, the Global Fund is also providing funds for strengthening the emerging health systems in Somalia. Through this support, over thirty health centres are being rehabilitated and provided with essential equipment by the end of the year.  UNICEF, with grants from the Global Fund, has been able to fill gaps and keep three key hospitals open in Somalia, by providing funding for core running costs. This includes Benadir Hospital in Mogadishu, where, in addition to operational costs, UNICEF through the Global Fund is covering the incentives of 140 core hospital staff. This has provided an essential lifeline for the host population and IDPs during the current emergency.

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 more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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