As crisis intensifies UNICEF works to stop hunger in Somalia

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Child suffering from starvation in Mogadishu hospital October 8, 2011
On October 8, 2011 a malnourished and dehydrated child lies on a bed in Banadir Hospital in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Somalia is currently gripped by a devastating drought and famine that has already killed tens of thousands and leaving many hundreds of thousands more, particularly young children and babies, in desperate need of emergency life-saving humanitarian assistance from the outside world. Image: UN Photo/Stuart Price

(WNN) BREAKING: Since famine was declared in Somalia July 2011, over 110,000 children in the region have been admitted to UNICEF-supported therapeutic centres for severe and moderate acute malnutrition. Despite these efforts, the numbers of children suffering from malnutrition is still on the rise.

“Malnutrition has become something widespread, if you receive 5 children, 4 will be malnourished,” says Mohamed Abdi, Health Worker for SAACID.

SAACID (pronounced say-eed – Somali meaning ‘to help’) is an indigenous Somali, not-for-profit, non-religious, non-political, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded and directed by Somali women, that focuses on practical measures to enhance the life-options of women, children and the poor.

“The rate of malnutrition in Mogadishu is increasing, in some areas most of the children are malnourished,” continued Abdi.

Operating an emergency relief center since 1991 when more than 2 million Somalis were in critical danger of death,  from starvation. Children have been the most vulnerable to lack of food and water. SAACID partnered with the ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross setting up 75 food centers to bring hot meals to the starving in central Somalia. Relief efforts have included response in helping those on-the-ground suffering from emergencies caused by fire, flood, tsunami, drought and war.

The most recent emergency has been due to the severity of conflict in the region surrounding Mogoadishu City. Ongoing violence in the region has resulted in a massive displacement of Somalis causing an estimated 1.2 million IDPs (Internal Displaced Persons) to leave their homes.

Others have moved away from their homes due to severe drought in the region, as water has become scarce. Even as rain hits the Mogadishu, drought plagues much of the south.

Reaching those at the greatest risk of starvation UNICEF and SAACID have partnered together to target IDP settlements in Mogadishu and the Middle and Lower Shabelle region for emergency food distribution. The needs for children suffering from starvation are at a ‘life-and-death’ pitch, intense and critical.

Three-year-old Ismael Hassan has a form of Severe Acute Malnutrition called Kwashiokor, the result of a dangerous deficiency of protein, minerals and vitamins that leads to a loss of body fat and muscle tissue. In its most critical stage the condition can cause swelling throughout the body.

“The child has a constant fever with blisters on his skin. He’s been sick for three months but it is only this month that his body has become swollen,” says Ismael’s father Hasan Abdi Mohamed.

Just two months ago, three year-old Moktar Mohamed was dying. He came with his parents and 4 siblings by foot and truck from middle Shabelle, over 100 kilometres north of the capital to escape conditions of drought that left his family little choice but to leave their homeland and head for an IDP camp. When they arrived little Moktar had become nothing but skin and bones.

Since arriving in the camps Moktar has managed to begin to show some improvement as nutrition from hot meals is helping to improve his health.

“He was brought in by some of the outreach staff in a really bad state.  He had Severe Acute Malnutrition, which is the worst kind. We gave him treatment and showed the parents how to follow a regime, and the child has improved going from severe malnutrition to moderate in a short period,” says SAACID Head Nurse Abdullahi Mohamed Ibrahim.

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Current conditions for many children in Mogadishu are at a critical state of crisis due to malnutrition and starvation. Three year old Ismael is showing severe symptoms of malnutrition that cause swelling of the skin. Suffering from starvation and it impacts on health of children is ongoing in the region. One hundred days since famine was declared in parts of southern Somalia, UNICEF and its partners are doing their utmost to prevent a second and potentially more devastating wave of deaths from disease against a background of conflict. This video is an October 28 UNICEF production.

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For more information on this crisis see reports from the UNICEF field office in Somalia.

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