Oxfam warns that entire generation of Somali children is at risk

Published: 16th June 2010

Oxfam alerts international community to the plight of 240,000 Somali children struggling to survive malnutrition and disease on African Children’s Day

In observance of the Day of the African Child, Oxfam urges the international community to act now to save the lives of almost a quarter of a million children in Somalia threatened by conflict, malnutrition and disease. One generation has already suffered immensely since the country collapsed 19 years ago, Somalia cannot afford for another to be lost.

Escalating conflict is compounding an already disastrous humanitarian situation. Since the beginning of the year, 200,000 people have fled the worsening violence, particularly in Mogadishu. Such forced displacement exacerbates the already poor sanitary conditions, insufficient clean water, lack of access to healthcare and food. The resulting acute malnutrition and disease are killing more Somali children.

Peter Kamalingin, humanitarian planning representative at Oxfam said, "Because of the fighting, more and more mothers are seeking help because they don't have enough food or clean water for their children. While the international community focuses on piracy, the future of Somalia is wasting away."

Oxfam, in partnership with a specialist nutrition centre in Mogadishu, provides care for severely malnourished children and mothers. In only the last two months, it has seen a 30% rise in the number of admissions, especially in the districts bordering Afgooye Corridor, a 15 km stretch of land where nearly 400,000 people, the largest number of displaced people in the world, live in desperate conditions.

In addition to providing emergency water and sanitation to displaced people in Mogadishu and the surrounding areas, Oxfam supports Banaadir Hospital, a children's hospital in Mogadishu. There, the number of children being admitted with waterborne and contagious diseases, such as cholera and diarrhea, has surged. Oxfam is delivering emergency public health equipment this week and has installed a new water and sanitation system.

Somalia is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with almost half the population - 3.2 million people - in need of relief aid and life-saving assistance. The south/central regions of Somalia, where one in five children is acutely malnourished, are hit the hardest by the conflict, making it more difficult for humanitarian relief to reach them. The nutritional status of displaced children is of great concern, as one in four suffers from chronic malnutrition. These levels far exceed the emergency malnutrition threshold.

While malnutrition is most critical in the south/central regions, the rates of acute malnutrition in Somalia as a whole are among the highest in the world. A recent Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit study found that 60% of children under the age of five are suffering from anemia and a third of all children are vitamin-A deficient. These nutritional deficiencies increase the risk of disease and premature death.

While conflict is raging, Somali children are struggling to survive. The international community must act now to stem the present humanitarian catastrophe or risk another generation of children being lost, the children it so desperately needs to build a new Somalia.

Read more

Conflict in Somalia – a humanitarian catastrophe

While the international community focuses on piracy, the future of Somalia is wasting away.
Peter Kamalingin
Humanitarian planning representative at Oxfam

Notes to editors

The 240,000 Somali children suffering from malnutrition and disease originates from research conducted by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit – Somalia (FSNAU) showing that one in every 6 children in Somalia is acutely malnourished, while one in 22 children is severely malnourished.

For almost 50 years Oxfam has worked with local Somali partner organizations and now provides vital assistance to half a million people across Somalia, including shelter, sanitation, health and technical support. In Mogadishu and the Afgooye Corridor, Oxfam works with local partners to provide water and sanitation to over 200,000 people through a network of taps, pipes and tanks that have been specially built over the past two years. In Lower Juba, Oxfam is providing emergency water and sanitation as well as livelihood recovery support to 250,000 civilians. In Mogadishu, Oxfam has initiated a community based therapeutic program for 42,000 malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers in 8 districts of Mogadishu. Oxfam also supports Benaadir Children’s Hospital with rehabilitation, emergency public health, water and sanitation. Last year, Oxfam provided Medina Hospital with emergency water and sanitation.