UN: UN agencies support drought-affected communities in northern Somalia

New York, US (PANA) - The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are intensifying joint efforts to assist communities in northern Somalia coping with a severe drought exacerbated by El Nino conditions, a UN statement said on Monday.

The statement, obtained by PANA in New York, stated that the two agencies are providing an integrated package of life-saving humanitarian assistance to halt the deteriorating food security and rising malnutrition in the affected areas of Somaliland and Puntland.

It noted that 385,000 people 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.

It disclosed that the aid package includes food assistance, nutrition programmes, and health services, as well as support to help communities access safe water and improve sanitation and hygiene conditions.

UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Steven Lauwerier, said: "The communities have lived through four successive poor rainy seasons, and their ability to cope with the drought has been stretched to the limit."

"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," he said.

"In addition to increased malnutrition cases and enrolment in nutrition programmes in the most affected areas, malnutrition-related deaths have been reported in areas such as Awdal region bordering Ethiopia," he added.

The statement also said that UNICEF was strengthening services at community level, deploying joint mobile health and nutrition teams to reach pastoral and other hard-to-reach groups.

It said malnourished children will receive an essential package of primary health care interventions, including emergency immunization, and also UNICEF providing 50,000 households with access to safe water via vouchers in the affected areas, and have repaired seven boreholes.

On its part, WFP said it has provided food assistance and nutrition support for 147,000 vulnerable people in the areas worst affected by the drought, and it continues to provide food or cash-based assistance to help families make it through the dry season.

WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera, stated: "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."

The WFP official said: "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."

PANA learnt that the two UN agencies had provided specialized nutrition support to prevent and treat malnutrition in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children.

Also, emergency health supplies have 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, while in Somaliland, 15,000 cartons of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) were provided to the Ministry of Health.

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.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 11April2016

11 april 2016 15:59:30

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