UN relief agencies warn of acute malnutrition in refugee camps

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- United Nations relief agencies operating in refugee camps in northern Kenya on Tuesday warned of alarming levels of malnutrition in refugee camps.
The UN agencies said malnutrition levels remained serious with cases of anaemia "even more worrying".
Rates amongst children have reached 81.
4% – a slight increase on previous figures.
An inter-agency initiative is addressing this through the provision of double-fortified salt in Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya and a pilot project supplying micronutrient-rich "sprinkles" in Kakuma, also in the north region.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UN World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that continued support was vital if the gains were not to be quickly lost.
"These problems are not going away.
It is absolutely essential that we are able to maintain a high level of assistance for the refugees, who entirely depend on outside assistance," said Eddie Gedalof, UNHCR's Acting Representative in Kenya.
Three United Nations agencies have also praised the international community for its support to help turn around a devastating malnutrition crisis in northern Kenya's Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
"The gains made in Dadaab and Kakuma are the result of a package of measures including a more regular supply of culturally acceptable foods, as well as firewood, and the provision of energy-saving cooking stoves and soap to ensure that refugees are not compelled to sell a portion of their food to buy these basic items," the three UN agencies said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
"Real inroads into the scourge of malnutrition are making a genuine difference to young children and their mothers," said WFP Kenya Country Director Burkard Oberle.
"It would be criminal to take our foot off the pedal now simply because we can't afford to keep going.
These people need more support, not less.
" Acute malnutrition rates among children under the age of 5 in the three refugee camps at Dadaab have dropped dramatically from 22.
2 percent last year to under 13 percent, according to a recent survey.
Initial results from a survey in camps at Kakuma indicate a similar downward trend.
Crucially, these figures are now below the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.
They are also the lowest rates recorded since 2000.
WFP has maintained full food rations in the camps in recent months as well, ensuring the basic 2,100 kilocalorie daily requirement per refugee and a basic, balanced diet.
Also thanks to donor support, supplementary and complementary feeding has been expanded, health facilities are better staffed to fight the constant threat of malaria and other diseases and refugees have a good supply of water.
"Our experience shows that we should not celebrate such short-term success, but redouble our efforts to ensure the work continues to have such a positive impact," said UNICEF Country Representative in Kenya Olivia Yambi.
The recent nutrition survey stressed it was essential to maintain the provision of wheat flour as the preferred staple of the refugees, to continue to provide supplementary micronutrient-rich food and to provide basic non-food items such as soap on a more regular basis.
Further progress is necessary in educating mothers on best child feeding practices, in addition to more general health education in the camps.
The three UN agencies require a combined total of US$18 million (WFP US$10.
5 million, UNICEF US$473,000 and UNHCR US$7 million) to ensure the full rollout of their operations in Dadaab and Kakuma up to June 2008.
A total of 231,000 refugees, mostly Somali and Sudanese, live in the camps at Dadaab and Kakuma.
Over 40,000 of them are children under the age of 5.

13 november 2007 22:19:00




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