Funding shortfalls may threaten critical assistance to Somalia, UNICEF warns

13:59, October 23, 2009      

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A shortfall in funding may jeopardize the humanitarian assistance that is urgently needed for roughly 3.6 million people in Somalia, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Thursday.

Health is a major concern as only 29 percent of the population has access to safe water, a situation which is now being aggravated by drought, the agency noted in a news release.

Nutrition also continues to be a critical concern, with one in five children acutely malnourished, and one in 20 severely malnourished and at risk of death without proper treatment.

"The situation is deteriorating further such that 3.6 million people are now living in humanitarian crisis, and over 50 percent of them are under 18 and over 20 percent are under five," said UNICEF Somalia Country Representative Rozanne Chorlton.

Chorlton said 4.5 million U.S. dollars is needed to complete essential life-saving activities before the end of the year, while another 5.7 million U.S. dollars is needed to start ordering supplies for next year.

UNICEF has been scaling-up treatment programs for moderately and severely acutely malnourished children across Somalia. It has already reached more than 132,000 high-risk children under the malnutrition prevention programs.

In the southeastern Somali town of Jowhar, where UNICEF's compound and warehouse were looted earlier this year and distribution of a new ready-to-use food product, Plumpy'doz, was disrupted, the agency is working to provide types of nutritional supplements that are less vulnerable to looting.

It is also working to ensure access to basic primary health care for about 2.5 million people each year. During the first round of the Child Health Days which was completed in June, over one million children under five and over 800,000 women of child-bearing age received a package of health services including vaccinations, water purification tablets and nutritional screenings, UNICEF said.

In addition, UNICEF is assisting schools and teachers to help keep the country's educational system operational, including by helping to provide almost all primary school supplies and textbooks.

Noting that working in Somalia has "never been more difficult," with direct hostilities targeting UN facilities, assets and even humanitarian supplies, the agency said its staff will continue the humanitarian assistance to children and women.

Source: Xinhua
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