UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) --
As a possible famine looms, an increasing number of
children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, cholera or
acute watery diarrhea in Somalia, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
said on Thursday.
More than 35,400 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition
were treated with life-saving therapeutic food at hundreds of
nutrition centres across Somalia in January and February. That’s a
58 percent increase over the same period in 2016.
As of this week, more than 18,400 cases of cholera and acute watery
diarrhea have also been reported since the beginning of the year,
the majority of the cases involving young children.
UNICEF warns that during the 2011 famine, around 130,000 young
children died; about half of them before the famine was officially
“These numbers are a wake-up call,” Leila Pakkala, the UNICEF
regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said after
speaking with displaced families and patients at a cholera treatment
centre in Baidoa, Somalia.
“Children are dying from malnutrition, hunger, thirst and disease,”
Pakakala said. “During the 2011 famine, around 130,000 young
children died, about half of them before famine was declared. We are
working with partners around the clock to make sure that doesn’t
There are no precise figures currently available for the number of
children who have died due to hunger or malnutrition, in part
because many succumb to disease and infection.
But children suffering from SAM are nine times more likely to die of
disease than a well-nourished child. During the 2011 famine, the
biggest killers were diarrhoea and measles.
Six years since famine was declared in parts of south-central
Somalia, the country is once again on the brink of catastrophe.
This time the drought is more widespread, affecting Somaliland,
Puntland and pastoral areas of Somalia, in addition to the centre
and southern parts of the country, which were hardest hit in 2011.
The numbers of people at immediate risk are greater, and children
are among the worst affected, the UN agency said.
In February, UNICEF projected that 944,000 children would be acutely
malnourished in 2017, including 185,000 children suffering from SAM
who would need urgent, lifesaving support.
That number could shoot up, even if the next rains due to start in
April come on time, and in full.
UNICEF and partners have secured the pipeline of lifesaving supplies
through June and are implementing a massive scale up plan.
UNICEF is working to extend the reach of both facility-based and
mobile nutrition, water, sanitation and health services, and has
teams in the hardest hit areas, working with local authorities,
partners and communities to treat and prevent malnutrition, acute
watery diarrhoe (AWD) and cholera.
UNICEF Somalia has raised its 2017 funding requirement from 66
million U.S. dollars to 147 million U.S. dollars, with a funding gap
of 54 percent as of mid-March.
“In 2011, funding poured in after the official declaration of famine
in July,” said Pakkala. “This year, many donors have come forward
early. But the worst may still be ahead of us. We have a small
window to prevent a massive loss of life.”