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UNICEF feeds 44,000 children in Somalia


NAIROBI, May 2008 - Amid worsening drought conditions, soaring food prices and mass displacement of people due to conflict, UNICEF has started supplementary feeding for 44,000 children under five years of age along the Mogadishu-Afgoye corridor in Central and Southern Somalia.

With the support of local elders and in partnership with the Somali NGO Jumbo Peace and Development, UNICEF aims to reach more than 90 per cent of all children under five among an estimated 300,000 people who have been displaced from Mogadishu. In the last three days, a supplementary food gruel named UNIMIX was provided to 44,000 children through nine distribution sites. Over the next three months, each child will receive 10 kg of the fortified corn-soya blend per month.

“This feeding programme comes at a time of worsening humanitarian crisis. Over 2.6 million Somalis are already food insecure and we expect that by the end of the year, up to 3.5 million people - nearly half of Somalia’s population - may need food aid,” says Unni Silkoset a nutrition officer with UNICEF Somalia. “We are extremely concerned about the most vulnerable among this group and we are using all means possible to prevent a catastrophe for the youngest children.”

At the moment, UNICEF’s partners are reporting an increase in admissions of severely malnourished children with about 2,000 children currently being treated in therapeutic feeding programmes in the Mogadishu-Afgoye corridor. By distributing UNIMIX to all children under five years of age, UNICEF hopes to reduce the number of children who are at risk of becoming severely malnourished.

The Somalia situation in recent weeks has hit a downward spiral with rising food prices, an extremely harsh dry season and a delayed start to the main April-June rains. Among the areas hardest hit and in greatest need of humanitarian assistance are those with a high population density and displaced communities. This includes Middle and Lower Shabelle, Benadir, Galgadud, Bakool and Bay regions in Central and Southern Somalia - as well as Mudug region and Bossaso town in Northeast Somalia. In addition, the fluid political and security situation in Central/Southern Somalia poses a major challenge to the relief effort.

UNICEF is working with national and international non-governmental organizations to provide life saving nutritional interventions for children. Severely malnourished children are referred to therapeutic feeding programmes such as those operated by UNICEF-supported Muslim Aid-UK.

“Our nutrition interventions in the Afgoye area were made possible through funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and several governments,” said UNICEF Representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen. “We are grateful to them and to our many other donors who understand the urgency of the situation. More than ever before in recent history, we are seeing hundreds of thousands of families at the brink of survival and we are working round the clock to find additional ways of reaching them with assistance despite the very difficult security situation.”

UNICEF and its partners are also chlorinating reservoirs to ensure access to safe drinking water for the population of the Afgoye corridor. Water trucking, rehabilitation of boreholes and acute watery diarrhoea control and prevention activities such as soap distribution and latrine construction are also ongoing. In addition, UNICEF plans to drill boreholes to increase the safe drinking water capacity in the corridor. In total, about 200,000 people are benefiting from UNICEF’s water trucking and other relief activities in these IDP settlements, which include the provision of education to more than 8,000 displaced primary school children, access to psychosocial care and support, and community mobilization on child protection and prevention of sexual and gender based violence.


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