12 April 2016 – In northern Somalia, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are stepping up efforts to help communities cope with a severe drought exacerbated by El Niño conditions in Somaliland and Puntland.
The two agencies have adopted a unified response to halt the deteriorating food insecurity and rising malnutrition in the affected areas, by providing an integrated package of life-saving humanitarian assistance. This includes food assistance, nutrition programmes, and health services, as well as support to help communities access safe water and improve sanitation and hygiene conditions. Amid rising school dropouts and forced migration, the focus is also on keeping children in schools and protecting them from family separation, violence and abuse.
“The communities have lived through four successive poor rainy seasons. Their ability to cope with the drought has been stretched to the limit,” said UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Steven Lauwerier. “Our concerted efforts are needed now to save the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families. Any delay from the international community will put their lives further at risk of hunger and disease.”
In addition to increased malnutrition cases and enrollment in nutrition programmes in the most affected areas, malnutrition-related deaths have been reported in areas such as Awdal region bordering Ethiopia. In response, UNICEF is strengthening services at community level, deploying joint mobile health and nutrition teams to reach pastoral and other hard-to-reach groups. Malnourished children will receive an essential package of primary health care interventions, including emergency immunization. UNICEF is also providing 50,000 households with access to safe water via vouchers in the affected areas, and have repaired seven boreholes.
“The people of Somalia know all too well the dangers of drought, but a drought does not have to mean a disaster – the world must recognize that we can save lives if we act in time,” said WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera. “It is absolutely critical that we are able to sustain assistance to the people affected by this crisis, so we can stem the damage of undernutrition for mothers and children before it has lifelong consequences.”
So far, WFP’s emergency response has provided food assistance and nutrition support for 147,000 vulnerable people in the areas worst affected by the drought, and WFP continues to provide food or cash-based assistance to help families make it through the dry season. Together, the two agencies provide specialized nutrition support to prevent and treat malnutrition in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children.
Emergency health supplies have also been pre-positioned in regional hospitals, health facilities and with partners to support the response. In Puntland, UNICEF pre-positioned nutrition supplies, including 500 cartons of BP-5 – a high energy biscuit. In Somaliland, 15,000 cartons of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) were provided to the Ministry of Health.
With thousands of children at risk of dropping out of school due to the drought, the two agencies are also working together to keep children and teachers in schools, and prevent exposure of children to the risks of family separation, early marriage, child labour and abuse. This is particularly pertinent as families continue to be forced into migration, in search of food, aid, and pasture for their livestock.
The UN has appealed for US$105 million to provide humanitarian and livelihood assistance to some 1.7 million people, most of them pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who make up three quarters of the population in Somaliland and Puntland. Among them, 385,000 need immediate assistance, while another 1.3 million are on the brink of slipping into a deeper crisis if rains continue to fail and aid is too slow to come.
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Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries. WFP launched its first operation in Somalia in 1967, and this year aims to assist 1.9 million people in the country. In addition to emergency food assistance, WFP programmes enhance the resilience of vulnerable Somalis against recurring shocks such as droughts and floods. This work includes building water reservoirs and roads, and reinforcing safety-net systems such as nutrition and school meals programmes. Where possible, WFP buys food grown locally or regionally to support small-scale farmers. In 2015, WFP purchased 500 metric tons of locally-grown cereals, in areas of the country where drought did not affect food availability, to provide food assistance for vulnerable Somalis in other regions where food is not available.