Lane Hartill, 202-640-6608 (W), 202-294-9700 (M)
WESTPORT, Conn. (July 20, 2011) — Hundreds of thousands of Somali children are severely and acutely malnourished inside Somalia and are in dire need of help, Save the Children warned after the UN declared a famine in parts of the drought-afflicted nation.
Figures released by the United Nations today show that famine is gripping two areas of south-central Somalia — Lower Shabelle and Bakool. Up to half of children in the worst affected areas suffer from acute malnutrition. In some areas of Somalia, death rates are 10 times higher than the threshold for declaring a famine (2 people per 10,000).
Some 2.85 million Somalis face a food crisis, according to analysis by the Nairobi-based Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia. That’s up from 2.4 million reported in January. The majority of those people are in the south. In a country where the majority of the population is farmers, in some places, 85 percent of livestock has died and those remaining are emaciated.
Save the Children believes that without urgent action, the famine may spread into parts of Puntland, a region in northern Somalia, with devastating impact on children and their families. Save the Children is scaling up its feeding of malnourished children in south central Somalia and Puntland. In Puntland, the number of malnourished children visiting Save the Children’s clinics has almost doubled in the past six months.
The crisis has been sparked by a combination of conflict, escalating food prices and failed rains. For weeks, thousands of Somalis have been flooding across the border into Kenya and Ethiopia. Many Somalis arrive exhausted and accompanied by severely malnourished children.
Duncan Harvey, Save the Children’s country director in Ethiopia, says that children fleeing the drought in Somalia who arrive in Ethiopia are deeply affected by what they’ve seen.
“Children who have experienced harrowing loss, hunger and thirst — not to mention, in some cases, violence and separation — now sit forlornly, contemplating their surroundings in silence,” he said. “These may be the lucky ones. We are alarmed by the appallingly high levels of malnutrition in Somalia being reported today. Only an immediate and dramatic increase in international aid can now avert a catastrophe in many parts of Somalia. Quite simply, many thousands will die if we do not act immediately.”
Ben Foot, Save the Children’s Somalia country director says: “This declaration of famine has to be a wake-up call for the international community. At the moment, we simply don’t have enough funds to meet the scale of the needs in Somalia. If we are to save children’s lives over the coming weeks, then we simply have to step up humanitarian activities on a massive scale.”
Save the Children is aiming to reach half a million of the most vulnerable children and their families with vital help, including food aid, nutritional support, water and health care.
Ben Foot continued: “In 1992, famine hit Somalia and 200,000 people died. We are not yet at that crisis point, but unless we act rapidly, many children could lose their lives over the coming months.”
Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.