Monday, July 25, 2011

SOMALIA: Government seeks urgent help for Mogadishu's malnourished children

SOMALIA: Government seeks urgent help for Mogadishu's malnourished children

MOGADISHU, 25 July 2011 (IRIN) - At least 1,000 of an estimated 14,000 malnourished children in 50 camps for the drought-displaced in Somalia's capital are in a critical condition and government officials have appealed for immediate help.

 "According to samples taken by the ministry and its partner organizations, about 14,000 children are suffering from serious malnutrition in the 50 drought-displaced camps in Mogadishu," Aden Ibrahim, the Health Minister in Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), told IRIN.

 "The ministry is focusing on the children under five as most of them are suffering from diseases such as measles, diarrhoea, malnutrition, etc."

 According to the latest Humanitarian Action Update [ ] from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than half a million severely malnourished children in the Horn of Africa are at risk of imminent death. The agency said access to food for these populations should be scaled up immediately.

 In Somalia, UNICEF said, "population-wide death rates are above the famine threshold with more than two deaths per 10,000 people every day or four child deaths per 10,000 children every day. Across Somalia, out of a total 3.7 million people, as many as 1.85 million children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. This represents an 85 percent increase since mid-2010, and an increase of over 35 percent, or one million people, since January this year."

 The agency said urgent food deliveries were needed to stabilize the plight of children and families on the move.

 "The number of acutely malnourished children has risen from 476,000 in January to 780,000, with 82 percent of all acutely malnourished in the south - where 640,000 children are acutely malnourished," UNICEF said. "Under-five death rates are higher than 4/10,000/day in all areas of the south where data is available, peaking at 13-20/10,000/day in riverine and agro-pastoral areas of Lower Shabelle."

 The agency added: "Humanitarian operations have been very difficult but not impossible, with increasing access to the south gradually being tested. UNICEF will continue to work with government, UN agencies, international NGOs and a network of capable national partners in 2011 to meet the pressing needs of 1.85 million children."

 Hospitals overwhelmed

 According to Lul Mohamoud Mohamed, director of Banadir Hospital - the largest in Mogadishu - the number of malnourished children was increasing daily at an alarming rate.

 "Due to the increase of the malnourished children in Mogadishu and the wide range of the town that the hospital covers, the nutrition kits are only sufficient for this month; by next month, we will not have any nutrition kits," she said.

 Banadir is one of two hospitals catering for the malnourished children, mostly from the southern parts of Mogadishu.

 "The other one catering for children in Mogadishu is the SOS hospital, in the north of the city," Mohamed said. "In the south, where most of the displaced people are, only Banadir provides services for malnourished children."

 According to a report [ ] by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), scientific evidence has shown that chronic under-nutrition in the first two years of life leads to irreversible damage, meaning that children may never reach their full mental and physical potential.

 "When a child under two chronically lacks the right nutrition, mental and physical damage is irreversible," WFP said. "This lack of nutrition makes the child more susceptible to illness throughout his or her life and a less productive member of society. And during emergencies, not only does the vulnerability of children increase, but the incidence of disease also goes up. This is a double threat to health and well-being."

 The agency added that children who suffered from chronic malnutrition when young may live with a high risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in later life.

 Schools out

 Meanwhile, school-going children from poor families in Mogadishu have stopped learning because there is no public school in the city.

 Hussein Shire Jima'ale, a teacher at the private Muqdisho Primary School in the capital, told IRIN: "There are hundreds of private schools in the city; the fees pupils are charged vary; for example, high schools charge between US$10 and $12 per student per term while primary schools charge $7-10 per pupil per term.

 "This has had a negative impact on the children in Mogadishu; I believe it is one of the reasons that has forced children on to the streets because their families have lived with violence and displacement during the past 20 years and can hardly afford school fees."

 Jima'ale said the government had "some" control over only three schools, with a combined 700 students; "all other previously public schools are now private institutions".

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