UK, UNICEF and Federal Government of Somalia launch flagship programme to improve health and nutrition for Somali women and children

29 April 2024
A mother holding her child.
UNICEF Somalia/Mumin
  • British Embassy Mogadishu partners with UNICEF and the Federal Government of Somalia to launch Better Lives for Somali Women and Children (Better Lives) programme.
  • Over 3 years, the UK will dedicate £38m to improve health and nutrition for vulnerable pregnant women and young children in Somalia through UNICEF.

The British Embassy Mogadishu today launched the development phase of the Better Lives for Somali Women and Children programme with UNICEF, Mercy USA, Trocaire, Save the Children and Action Against Hunger and the Federal Government of Somalia. This innovative programme will improve lives for Somalia’s most vulnerable and is the UK’s flagship health and nutrition partnership with the Federal Government of Somalia.

Having pledged £38m from October 2023 to September 2026, the UK is again proving itself a committed and unique partner to the Somali Government across a wide range of humanitarian and development activity. At the launch of the UK-Somalia Strategic Partnership in November 2023, health was identified as a top priority by UK Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell and President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Better Lives will deliver high impact health and nutrition services like immunization, maternal and newborn care, and treatment of malnutrition and common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia to vulnerable women and children, as well as improving the capacity of regional and district health authorities to effectively lead and coordinate service delivery. Better Lives will mean fewer women dying of complications related to pregnancy and birth and will reduce infant mortality rates caused by malnutrition and disease.

The launch event in Mogadishu on 29 April was attended by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Minister for Health H.E Dr. Ali Haji Adan, the Director General for Health and other Government representatives.

Speaking at the launch event in Mogadishu, British Ambassador to Somalia Mike Nithavrianakis said:

“Better Lives is our flagship and innovative health and nutrition programme, which will improve lives for Somalia’s most vulnerable women and children. We’re delighted to be working hand in hand with our partners UNICEF and the Federal Government of Somalia.

With the £38m we have pledged to September 2026, Better Lives will deliver high impact health and nutrition services to women and children across Somalia. This will include vital immunization, maternal newborn and child care, and treatment of malnutrition and common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia. Better Lives will also support regional and district health authorities to sustainably increase capacity and improve service delivery.

Better Lives will mean fewer women dying of complications related to pregnancy and birth and fewer infants and babies dying as a result of malnutrition and disease. I can’t think of a worthier goal.”

UNICEF’s Representative Wafaa Saeed also welcomed the flagship programme

“Somalia’s efforts to reduce maternal and child deaths is complicated by chronic conflict and climate change, which is causing population displacements and disease outbreaks.”

“Through this programme, we will strengthen the capacity of the health system to provide lifesaving services while prioritizing the most vulnerable. We will strive to ensure that quality support is provided to targeted individuals and that no mother and child is left behind.”

Better Lives will involve like-minded partners and donors supporting health in Somalia including the World Bank, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), Gavi and other bilateral donors in addition to the Federal Government. The UK has been a consistent supporter of health and nutrition initiatives in Somalia and is working with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s Government to support Somalia’s transition to Universal Health Coverage and the roll-out of the Government’s national health and nutrition policy framework to provide health services across all regions. Better Lives will aim to ensure access to and availability of critical healthcare services across six regions and 15 districts of Somalia with the aim of reaching 4 million vulnerable women, men, boys and girls by 2026.

The extension of the programme follows a short-term humanitarian phase which ran from April 2022 to September 2023 and provided vital insights for the design of the programme, including how to improve quality of services delivered and how to strengthen response to emergencies. In the humanitarian phase of the programme, over 230,000 children under the age of five years were fully immunized and a further 123,000 were treated for severe malnutrition. Over 200,000 women received professional antenatal care, while almost 100,000 women gave birth with the support of medical professionals at healthcare facilities. 12 medical facilities were also fitted with solar panels to help provide reliable power for important services including immunization to children under five years. Working with the Somali Ministry of Health, almost one million Somalis received outpatient care, making a real difference to the health and wellbeing of some of the country’s most vulnerable communities.

Building on the success of the humanitarian phase, the development phase of the programme will institute sustainable and impactful healthcare improvements to benefit Somali women and children for years to come. 

Media contacts

Victor Chinyama
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Somalia
Tel: +252613375885
Georgina Woodhouse-Hills
Head of Communication
British Embassy Mogadishu
Tel: +254 114 878 117

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

UNICEF has been working in Somalia since 1972 when its first office opened in Mogadishu. Today UNICEF has over 300 staff working in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Dollow, Garowe, Hargeisa and also Nairobi, Kenya. Together with 200 international and national NGOs and community-based organizations, UNICEF delivers services in Health, Nutrition, WASH, Education and Child Protection, and responds to emergencies and supports peace-building and development.

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