The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, has expressed concern about the malnutrition crisis in Somalia amid a looming famine.
UNICEF Representative in Somalia Wafaa Saeed Abdelatef said disease outbreaks have spiked between January-July period, with at least 8,400 suspected cases of acute watery diarrhoea/cholera and around 13,000 suspected measles cases.
“This is a malnutrition crisis; Malnutrition has reached crisis levels – 1.5 million children, nearly half of the under-five population, are likely to have acute malnutrition. Of these 385,000 will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. These are unprecedented numbers,” Saeed said in a statement released Tuesday evening in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
She said some 730 children are reported to have died in food and nutrition centers across the country between January and July but the numbers could be more as many deaths go unreported.
The UNICEF official said the Monday warnings about a looming famine in areas of the Bay region of Somalia between October and December underline the scale of Somalia’s crisis and the urgent need to quickly scale up support.
“Bay is not the only region facing this deep humanitarian crisis. 74 districts across Somalia are affected, out of which we have prioritized 12 as needing urgent, urgent support,” Saeed said.
A new food security and nutrition analysis published by the UN Monday revealed that famine is unfolding in parts of Somalia while staggering levels of suffering can be seen across the country.
“This is Somalia’s third drought in a decade. The first drought, in 2011, killed an estimated 260,000 people, many of them children,” Saeed said.
She called for a radical change to stop famine from happening again — ensuring donors commit long-term funding to help families build resilience to the effects of climate change.
The UNICEF official said 223,000 children with severe acute malnutrition had been treated (58 percent of the 2022 target) and 1 million people reached sustainable water (30 percent of the 2022 target) as of July.
Saeed said the ongoing efforts to prevent disease outbreaks include providing water and sanitation in locations for internally displaced persons (IDP) and stepping up vaccinations against measles and cholera.
“We urgently need donors to step up and fully fund the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan. We also need access to be facilitated to deliver impartial relief for children in need, in accordance with international humanitarian law,” Saeed said.
Forecasts indicate a fifth consecutive failed rainy season in the coming months, and recovery from drought will take time.
According to the UN, the unprecedented failure of four consecutive rainy seasons, decades of conflict, mass displacement, and severe economic issues are pushing many people to the brink of famine.