Children in Somalia face unprecedented danger as food shortages and fierce fighting deliver double blow

Save the Children Alliance
Friday, September 18, 2009

Save the Children is urgently seeking to expand its feeding programmes in Somalia to get life-saving assistance to the growing numbers of malnourished children struggling to survive the country's worst humanitarian crisis for 18 years.

Conditions for children in the country are deteriorating at an alarming rate. Latest figures show the proportion of malnourished children has risen to 20 per cent as a result of severe drought, crop failures, rising food prices and hyperinflation. In addition, a recent escalation in fighting has forced thousands more families from their homes. Disruption and displacement means small children are at risk of losing their families in the chaos leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, physical and sexual abuse. Displaced children are living in dire conditions without access to enough food, clean water or medical care. The number of internally displaced people within Somalia has already increased 40% in the last six months to over 1.5 million people.

Susannah Friedman, Save the Children's Emergencies Director in Somalia, said: "Never have children in Somalia been in greater danger. Conflict is just part of the problem. One in five are now malnourished and around one in 20 will die if we can't get emergency help to them.

"The level of complexity and the scale of the crisis in Somalia is worse than anything we have seen before. Children are paying the price for 18 years of conflict and are now being hit hardest by the severe food crisis. Living in hunger means they are much more vulnerable to disease and may even become brain damaged by a continued lack of vital nutrition. Children are weak, hungry and traumatised and we desperately need to get more emergency aid into the country or more children will die."

The World Food Programme's pipeline, the main system of bringing emergency food into Somalia, is under threat. It is predicted that there will be a break in the supply route into the country that may last for many months.

Susannah Friedman said: "The closure of the food supply pipeline would be a devastating blow to Somali children and their families and would force many to leave their homes in search of alternative sources of food putting more children at risk. We urgently need to expand our work and reach more children now to ensure they have enough food to eat in the coming months."

Save the Children continues to reach children and their families in desperate need in Somalia, despite the huge access and security challenges. We're treating malnourished children, getting children back to school, and will soon be distributing cash to some of the poorest families. We're scaling up our response to hunger and malnutrition in Hiran and are looking to set up new feeding and livelihoods programmes in Somaliland and Puntland.

With your support

Save the Children UK is appealing for urgent funds to support life-saving work in Somalia. To donate to the Somalia Emergency Appeal please visit www.savethechildren.org.uk or call 020 7012 6400.

More information

For further information or interviews please contact the Save the Children press officer on our out of hours number +44 7831 650 409 or on the office number: +44 207 012 6400.

Source: Save the Children Alliance, 18 Sep 2009

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