Children’s charity UNICEF has issued an emergency appeal amid warnings that hundreds of thousands of children in northern Somalia are at risk of severe malnutrition.
The region is facing a food crisis caused by a serious drought that has seen no rain over the past six months.
UNICEF has warned that the drought has seen farmers losing their livestock and crops and families displaced throughout the country – while ongoing conflict in certain regions is creating access difficulties and further displacement.
While a total of 1.4 million children are facing acute malnutrition in Somalia, UNICEF expects to treat 275,000 for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) – the life-threatening stage of malnutrition.
Children who receive proper treatment for SAM have a 93% survival rate.
UNICEF Ireland director Peter Power is currently on the ground in northern Somalia on a fact finding mission.
He told Newstalk that the failure of the rains before Christmas has seen up to 50% of the livestock in region perish over the past six months.
“We met one woman farmer indeed who travelled over 400 miles with her family,” he said. “She started out with 500 goats and by the time she reached water in the west of Somalia, she just had 75 goats – every other one of them had died.”
“The children were all acutely malnourished. It is a really grave situation.”
Somalia remains one level below famine status on an international scale used by humanitarians to assess famine-risk.
However, Mr Power warned that when the country experienced famine six years ago, 130,000 children died before the aid community confirmed the region’s famine status.
UNICEF has warned that the dire situation in Somalia is much the same as what is currently occurring in South Sudan – where the United Nations declared a famine last February.
The charity has also expressed its deep concern for children in the Greater Horn of Africa, in Nigeria and in Yemen – who are all caught up in a “food crisis of frightening proportions.”
The warnings come after new figures revealed that more than 31 million people were forced to flee their homes within their own countries as a result of conflict, violence and disasters in 2016.
The shocking figures from released today by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), equate to nearly one new person internally displaced every second.