Magnitude of human suffering in Somalia demands more

12 August, 2011
A Somali woman holds her severely malnourished baby outside a tent serving as a medical clinic established by the African Union Mission in Somalia. Credit: AU-UN IST/Stuart Price
A Somali woman holds her severely malnourished baby outside a tent serving as a medical clinic established by the African Union Mission in Somalia. Credit: AU-UN IST/Stuart Price

Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg, shared some worrying statistics on the situation in Somalia with the United Nations Security Council on August 10. She told members that in some areas of Somalia, under-5 mortality rates had peaked at 13 per 10,000 people per day. To put that into perspective Ms. Bragg said: “by the time I go to bed tonight, 13 children will have died in a community of 10,000 people.”

Drawing much needed attention to "the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world today", Ms. Bragg noted that  “Children are the most affected by the crisis … tens of thousands have already died and many more will die in the coming days unless aid is provided to them.”

An estimated "100,000 people fleeing drought and famine, have reached [the capital] Mogadishu over the past two months alone in search of food, water and shelter," she added. To date, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons in Somalia is estimated at 1.5 million people. 

Aid underway, slowly

In recent weeks some progress had been made in scaling up the response, Ms. Bragg noted. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced the increase of its emergency operations in central and southern Somalia and UNICEF was boosting its support to existing feeding and stabilization centers.

Since 27 July, 97 tons of supplies had been airlifted to Mogadishu, Gedo and the Lower Juba, to treat some 34,000 malnourished children. Across southern and central Somalia, sanitation activities, had reached almost 340,000 people. Water interventions, such as borehole rehabilitation and water trucking, reached over 800,000 people.

But “the scaling up of activities is not a quick endeavour,” Ms Bragg said. Humanitarian actors were still assessing the implications of the withdrawal of the Al Shabaab from Mogadishu. “It remains unclear how this new scenario will impact on overall security and the delivery of humanitarian aid.”

In other areas under the Al Shabaab control, the UN and its partners continue to negotiate access with local authorities and communities to reach new areas and move closer to people in need. The ICRC is the only organization allowed to conduct food distribution in Al Shabaab areas since the suspension of WFP operations in January 2010.

Worse to come

According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, the current situation already represents Africa’s worst food security crisis in almost 20 years. Ms. Bragg warned that without a massive global response, thousands more would face starvation and death: “We have not yet dealt with the peak of the crisis as further deterioration is considered likely”.

“We still urgently need $1.4 billion to save lives [in the Horn of Africa]. Donors have committed more than $1 billion to the response so far … we are very grateful, especially in these difficult economic times. But the magnitude of human suffering in Somalia today demands more.”

For more information, have a look at the latest Situation Report from Somalia here.

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