UN boosts children nutrition to prevent stunted growth in drought-hit Horn of Africa

New Somali arrivals in Kobe camp in Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado area are often emaciated, malnourished and exhausted

19 August 2011 – In an effort to tackle high levels of malnutrition among children in areas of the Horn of African affected by the severe food crisis, the United Nations reported today it had launched programmes to boost nutrition by providing special products to prevent damage to children’s physical and mental development.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was enhancing nutritional support for more than 90,000 children in Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya with a supplementary feeding programme for those under the age of five. The number of refugees in Dadaab has swelled to 440,000 with the continuing influx of people from famine-hit areas of Somalia.

The agency will tomorrow begin distributing food in six drought-affected Kenyan districts to boost nutrition for all children below the age of three, as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers. Working with the Kenyan education ministry and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WFP is also providing school meals to 587,000 Kenyan pupils in the worst-affected areas during the August school holidays. The Government has decided to keep schools in those areas open.

WFP has airlifted 120 tons of a ready-to-eat specialized food product and 24 tons of high-energy biscuits to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and the regions of Gedo, Lower Juba and Bakool, to provide enough nutritional support for 30,000 people.

The agency is also expanding its hot meals programme in Mogadishu. Three new hot meals centres have opened, bringing the total in the city to 23. WFP is also providing cooked meals in six hospitals.

In Ethiopia, food distributions have begun for refugees who have been transferred to the newly-opened camp in Hilaweyn, the fourth and newest refugee camp in the Dollo Ado area, which opened August 5. The camp is expected to house about 15,000 people by the end of the month.

The UN food aid agency will also open a new logistics corridor which will be used to transport vital food supplies from the port of Berbera in Somaliland into Ethiopia and down to Dollo Ado. The food will then be transported across the border by WFP-contracted trucks and delivered to drought-affected communities in southern Somalia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, has continued emergency aid distributions to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in southern and central Somalia, reaching some 30,000 of them this week alone.

The agency has since early July assisted some 180,000 people displaced by drought, famine or conflict. “Our plan is to reach another 180,000 internally displaced Somalis before the end of August,” said Andrej Mahecic, the UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.

This week’s UNHCR deliveries focused on settlements close to Villa Somalia in Mogadishu’s Waaberi district, Baadheere in the Gedo region and Sakow in Middle Juba region.

In eastern Ethiopia, a large-scale effort is under way to address the high mortality rates among new arrivals from Somalia. Malnutrition remains the leading cause of death in four refugee camps in the Dollo Ado area, but the situation is being compounded by suspected measles and other diseases.

“We are expanding existing nutritional programmes to older children and are rushing to open a dedicated stabilization centre for severely acute malnourished children in Kobe camp, which has been experiencing the highest mortality rates,” said Mr. Mahecic.

In Djibouti, the authorities are working to reopen the old Holl-Holl camp to house the more than 3,500 Somalis who have arrived this year. An existing camp known as Ali Addeh is already overcrowded with 17,000 refugees from previous refugee arrivals.

“Much work remains to be done to prepare the site for the new refugees, including digging boreholes for water, building latrines, a health centre and a school,” said Mr. Mahecic. “We hope the camp can start receiving refugees by mid-September.”

UNHCR also announced that it had launched a new website to provide detailed and regularly updated information on the refugee and displacement emergency in the Horn of Africa.

The new site http://data.unhcr.org/horn-of-africa/ will provide a comprehensive information-sharing portal for all of the refugee agency’s operational partners involved in providing relief.


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