Humanitarian crisis persists in Somalia with malnutrition rampant in young, UN warns

5 February 2010 – A widespread humanitarian crisis persists in war-torn Somalia, with an estimated 3.2 million people, or 42 per cent of the population, in need of emergency aid or livelihood support, and one in six children acutely malnourished and requiring specialist care, according to a United Nations update released today.

Of these children, one in 22 is severely malnourished and at a nine-fold increased risk of death compared to well-nourished children, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported.

In south and central Somalia, which has been plagued by factional fighting and has not had a functioning central government since 1991, the rates are higher with one in five children acutely malnourished, of which one in 20 is acutely malnourished. These national rates of acute malnutrition continue to be amongst the highest in the world.

Currently, the rates translate into an estimated 240,000 children under five years of age being acutely malnourished, of which 63,000 are severely malnourished. More than two thirds of these children are located in south and central Somalia, the area’s most affected by the current conflict.

Long-term integrated responses combining nutritional rehabilitation with promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding practices and increasing access to safe water and health services are the only way to address the crisis, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to be the largest single group in crisis, representing 44 per cent of the 3.2 million, and with the ongoing conflict this is likely to even increase further.

In the north, a drought following four seasons of below-average rainfall has left 290,000 pastoral and agro-pastoral people in need of both life-saving and livelihood support to recover, but some good indications are reported for agricultural areas in the south, where a bumper harvest will increase food availability and accessibility to many households, including poor urban families, and has reduced the number of rural people in crisis by 15 per cent from six months ago.


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