NAIROBI, 2 February 2010 (IRIN) - Somalia has one of the highest levels of malnutrition in the world, with up to 240,000 children under five affected, according to an early warning report published on 1 February by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FAO/FSNAU) and FEWSNET. The report comes as Mogadishu residents say the humanitarian situation has deteriorated. "I honestly cannot remember when things have been so bad; it is as if all the negative things are coming together at one time," civil society activist Asha Sha'ur said. "If the situation - both security and humanitarian - does not improve soon, we will be looking at a far worse situation than Somalia has ever faced." Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO), said many business people had fled the city due to increasing insecurity. "These were the people who used to create jobs," he said. "It was not much but it allowed many displaced poor people to supplement what little aid they got. Now that is not possible." More than two-thirds of malnourished children were in south-central Somalia, the report said. "Although we are seeing some positive indicators in terms of the lifting of the livestock export ban and improved crop and livestock production in southern parts... the food security and nutrition situation in central regions remains in crisis, where 70 percent of the population require assistance," said Grainne Moloney, FSNAU's interim chief technical adviser for Somalia.
Severely malnourished One in six children was acutely malnourished and in need of specialist care. "One in 22 is severely malnourished and at a nine times increased risk of death compared to well nourished children," the report said. In south-central Somalia, which has seen significant clashes between Islamist insurgents and government forces, one in five children were acutely malnourished, it said. Civil society activist Sha'ur told IRIN that high food prices, lack of employment opportunities and reduced humanitarian aid had contributed to the crisis. A 50kg bag of maize which was selling for the equivalent of US$12 two months ago was now going for $30, she said. EHRO’s Yassin said the situation in the city had deteriorated in the last two weeks. "We had a few weeks when some people actually returned to their homes from the camps, but that has now been reversed by fighting in the past week." Up to 45 people had been killed and at least 152 injured in fighting between government forces and insurgents in the last week, he said. ah/cb
Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition