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Save the Children charity says malnutrition very critical in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- International charity on Thursday expressed concern about the alarming increase in severe malnutrition among children in drought-hit Somalia.

Save the Children said its new study found "very critical" levels of severe malnutrition in two of six districts assessed in some of the worst-affected parts of Somalia, which could spell disaster for a country where livelihoods have already been devastated and the economy crippled by the drought.

Hassan Saadi Noor, Save the Children’s Country Director in Somalia, said 7 percent of all children under five in the districts of Badhan and Adado in Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia, are severely malnourished.

"We are on the brink of a massive catastrophe in Somalia with the death of three quarters of the country’s livestock, a rapid increase of children suffering severe malnutrition and the depletion of water stores in dozens of communities," Noor said.

The assessment also found exceptionally high rates of stunting in Hudur district, another part of Somalia heavily impacted by drought and an area devastated by the famine in 2011.

Less than 10 percent of children in Somalia are currently registered in a nutrition program, according to the study, which warns that children could start dying "in the near future" unless immediate action is taken, including a major and rapid scaling up of nutrition outreach services.

"Despite April traditionally being the wettest month of the year for much of the country, it has barely rained so far.

"Our fear is that if this pattern continues and the rainy season fails again, we could start seeing children dying in significant numbers," said Noor.

"Donors have stepped up in recent months, however such is the scale of this crisis that even more funding is needed to address malnutrition directly, including improving access to food and water to prevent it in the first place."

Save the Children’s mobile health teams in Somaliland also reported a dramatic increase in the proportion of children they have screened who are moderately or severely malnourished, rising from 11 percent to 26 percent between February and March.

"The last two or three months have been devastating right across Somalia. You see the dead animals everywhere here, and there simply isn’t any pasture left in many parts," Noor said.

While drought has left 6.2 million people, more than half of the population of Somalia, in need of immediate lifesaving assistance, a further 8.3 million drought-affected people in Kenya and Ethiopia are also in need of urgent help.


Somalia launches humanitarian coordination centre to curb droughts 

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- The Somalia government on Wednesday launched a National Humanitarian Coordination Centre to help manage disasters and curb recurrent drought in the Horn of Africa nation.

The centre which was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled called on international community to increase funding and expand humanitarian programs to the drought-stricken communities.

“We call upon all our partners and UN agencies to fully engage with us in the making of systems that could better help us manage disasters and minimize the impact of such recurrent drought in Somalia,” Guled said during the launch in Mogadishu.

The launch of the centre comes a time when millions of Somalis are suffering from a severe drought affecting millions across the country.

With almost half of the Somali population in need of assistance, including 330,000 children who are acutely malnourished, the UN chief reiterated an appeal for 825 million U.S. dollars for the support of 5.5 million people for six months.

Guled said the government has done its best to respond to the drought situation and immediately engaged with the existing National Drought Committee that had in place the necessary strategy and mechanism to help alleviate the plight of the distressed population at their localities.

“As you are all aware, Somalia is prone to recurrent drought with documented irregular poor pattern of rainy seasons since 2014 as being the driver of the current drought,” Guled said.

According to the National Drought Committee over 6.8 million people across Somalia have been directly affected by the drought with nearly 1.8 million people in dire need of immediate emergency relief, but Guled warned that the number could top up to over 2.5 million people if they don’t respond urgently.

“As a result of the push-pull factors associated with similar crisis, we are witnessing a massive increase in IDP numbers into urban areas already strained with earlier displacement compounded with the lack of adequate resources to deal with such enormous influx,” he said.

“This demands more coherent and immediate effort to deal with the aftermath with the urgency it demands,” the deputy PM added.

Guled said the government is extremely concerned about the impact of the crisis, particularly in areas that are experiencing water shortages and do not have even the facilities to store water.

“Of specific concern are the reports we received from affected communities who are located close to the dried up river where all the nearby boreholes have dried up as well. In many parts of the country, caravans of destitute families have moved out of their localities to seek food and water in other areas by foot having lost their entire livestock and in some case vulnerable family members on the long trek,” he said.



African Union probes death of soldier by colleague in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said Thursday it had launched investigations into the killing of one of its soldiers in Bula-burte town in Hiiraan region of central Somalia on Wednesday.

The Djiboutian soldier was reportedly killed by his colleague from the Somalia National Army (SNA) following an argument.

AMISOM Force Spokesperson Wilson Rono confirmed the incident, saying investigation is underway to establish the reasons behind it.

"A soldier from Djiboutian contingent under AMISOM was killed by another soldier from SNA on Wednesday after argument between them in Bula-burte town. We are investigating the cause of the incident," Rono told Xinhua by telephone.

Mahad Hassan, Minister of Information for Hirshabelle State in Somalia, said the Djibouti soldier had slapped a woman at a local restaurant, sparking reaction from the SNA soldier.

This is the first Djiboutian soldier under AU mission to have been killed in a friendly fire in Hiiraan region in central Somalia.

Somalia regards China vital ally in reconstruction: minister

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somalia is keen to strengthen bilateral ties with China in order to hasten the country’s reconstruction after decades of civil strife, a Somali minister has said.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdulkadir Ahmedkheyr Abdi said Beijing has for decades lent a helping hand to the Horn of Africa nation with projects including Benadir Hospital, the National Theatre and the Mogadishu Stadium.

"Somalia is the first East African country to establish diplomatic ties with China," the minister told Xinhua in a recent interview.

He lauded China for standing with Somalia through a tumultuous journey marked by civil war, terrorism and natural calamities since the two countries established diplomatic relationship in 1960.

On his part, Qin Jian, the new Chinese Ambassador to Somalia, said Beijing was committed to helping Somalia reconstruct its economic and political pillars destroyed during the civil war.

Qin noted that reopening of Chinese Embassy in Mogadishu after closure occasioned by the civil war had reaffirmed the resilience of Sino-Somalia ties.

"That is a demonstration to China-Somalia brotherhood," the envoy added.

Abdulkadir said China has supported humanitarian interventions in the Horn of African state that is currently grappling with a severe drought.

"For many years, China has always been a donor to Somalia," Abdulkadir said, adding that Beijing has pledged 10 million dollars to support drought victims and an additional 5 million dollars to be channeled through the Kenyan government to support repatriation of Somalia refugees.

The foreign minister said the Somali government has created a conducive environment to attract Chinese investors.

"With improved security we hope Chinese companies will invest in Somalia and be part of our reconstruction," said Abdulkadir.

He added that China could be a formidable market for Somalia’s agricultural products.

"We look forward to reviving our export potential especially in agricultural produce like bananas. Somalia used to be the biggest banana exporter in Africa before the civil war. Our bananas are of high quality," said Abdulkadir.

He also noted that Somalia has an expansive coastline with pristine beaches that could be an ideal destination for Chinese tourists.

"I hope the Chinese tourists will come to Somalia once security improves," said Abdulkadir.

He said academic and cultural exchanges between China and Somalia will strengthen bonds of friendship while unleashing mutual benefits.

"Over 1,400 Somalia students have studied in China and some of them can speak fluent Chinese ...

"With more people-to-people exchanges, Somalia and China can further strengthen co-operation and friendship," he said.


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