The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that thousands of severely malnourished boys and girls in Somalia are at risk of dying, urging donors to step up support amid a historic drought.
“Without greater action and investment, we are facing the death of children on a scale not seen in half a century,” Spokesperson James Elder stated.
A child is admitted to a health facility for treatment of severe acute malnutrition “every single minute of every single day”, he said.
“Severely malnourished children are up to 11 times more likely to die of diarrhoea and measles than well-nourished children. With rates such as these, Somalia is on the brink of a tragedy at a scale not seen in decades,” Elder added.
Meanwhile, UN agencies have been warning for months about the looming famine in the Horn of Africa, where the worst drought in 40 years is affecting more than 20 million people across several countries.
In Somalia, famine is projected in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts in Bay Region between this month and December, if aid does not reach those most in need.
“When people speak of the crisis facing Somalia today, it has become common for frightful comparisons to be made with the famine of 2011 when 260,000 people died. However, everything I am hearing on the ground – from nutritionists to pastoralists – is that things today actually look worse,” Elder said.
“In 2011, after three failed rains, the affected population was half of what it is now, and the overall conditions – rain and harvest – were on the mend. Today: it’s been four failed rains; the forecast for the fifth rains is looking pretty grim, and the affected population is twice the size of 2011. Things are bad and every sign indicates that they are going to get worse.”
Although thousands of these children have made it to treatment centres, carried by mothers who have walked for days, he expressed his fear for those who are not able to reach support, particularly in a country where access to healthcare is continually hampered by terrorism and threats to aid workers.