By Magdalene Mukami
The United Nations has raised a red flag over a devastating drought that has gripped Somalia, with estimates showing that nearly a million children will be acutely malnourished this year as the situation worsens.
In a joint statement released Friday, the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in Nairobi called for immediate humanitarian assistance to avoid thousands of deaths in the country.
Describing the situation in Somalia as far worse than in other drought-affected East African countries due to decades of conflict, the UN warned that out of the 944,000 children, 185,000 will be severely malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving support.
Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF’s Somalia representative, said large numbers of Somalis “have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth”.
He stressed, “we have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed.”
Thousands of animals and crops have died leaving communities with no food to eat, and the drought has further led to an increase of water-borne disease in the war-torn country, according to the UN.
“Almost half the country’s population, or 6.2 million people, are either severely food insecure or in need of livelihood support,” it underlined.
WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera said the body was working together with UNICEF and other partners in “moving as quickly as possible to reach much more people with lifesaving support using every option we have, including cash-based transfers, specialized nutrition support and airlifting of relief goods”.
The UN noted that even though international donors have generously provided funds to help alleviate the situation, more than $450 million will still be required to provide food assistance in the coming months.