Thousands of Somalis are suffering from malnutrition, a lack of clean water and poor sanitation conditions, putting Somali children at particularly high risk, a United Nations report says.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs cautions that Somalis could become more vulnerable to waterborne diseases, which are responsible for a fifth of the deaths among children under the age of five in Somalia.
Some 200,000 Somalia children are “acutely malnourished” and a quarter of them are in need of immediate treatment in order to survive, OCHA says.
The organization is appealing to donors for more funding to stem malnutrition and disease levels.
The most affected areas are in north and central Somalia, where limited funding and a water shortage have made the nutrition situation critical.
The U.N says three million Somalis, nearly a third of the population, will remain dependent on humanitarian assistance this year.
“We’re seeing a continued deterioration of the nutrition situation in Somalia in certain areas,” said Marcus Prior, a spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP).
“I was in Somalia in December in a town on the border with Ethiopia where the nearest proper clinic was 70 kilometers away, with very little option to get there other than by foot,” he told The Media Line.
A newly elected president in Somalia could bring positive developments and greater stability, but Marcus said the situation was still difficult.
However, there have been improvements for the WFP’s operations in terms of access.
The WFP has talked in the past of difficulties in accessing the needy populations because of conflicts and piracy off Somalia’s coasts.
“We have the European Union providing ongoing escorts for the ships carrying WFP food into Somalia,” Prior said. “Since the escorts began and various navies are assisting us, we haven’t had any attacks on ships carrying WFP food. We’re very grateful to the EU for its continued support.”
The Somalia branch of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) says there is a humanitarian crisis in Somalia, with 43 percent of the total population, around 3.2 million people, in need of emergency livelihood and life-saving assistance at least until June 2009.
Of those, two million are urban poor and internally displaced populations.
“Somalia has had recurring humanitarian emergencies over the past 18 years and is a country characterized by chronically high rates of acute malnutrition above emergency levels and chronic levels of food insecurity among the rural population,” a recent FSAU report said.
It appears Somalia is facing its fourth consecutive dry year, with lower-than-average rainfalls in some areas, compounding an existing drought in the country, and causing another year of below-normal cereal production.
The extremely high rates of malnutrition among children could also have a devastating impact on the economic potential of Somalia, the FSAU said.
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