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UNICEF airlifts emergency supplies to southern Somalia in response to worsening child malnutrition

NEW YORK (July 14, 2011) — UNICEF yesterday airlifted emergency nutrition supplies and water-related equipment to Baidoa in southern Somalia, as part of its lifesaving interventions to assist drought-affected children in Somalia. More supplies are en-route.

The most severe humanitarian emergency in the world has been declared in the Horn of Africa, with Somalia being the epicenter of the crisis. More than half a million children in Somalia are acutely malnourished and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The south is the most affected, hosting 80% of all malnourished children. In some areas of the south, one in three children is acutely malnourished. Conflict and insecurity are compounded by climactic and price changes, creating a dire situation for the population. 

"Yesterday UNICEF airlifted to Baidoa five metric tons of essential nutrition supplies, including therapeutic food and medicine to treat severely malnourished children, and equipment to supply clean water to the camp for displaced people in Baidoa. Health supplies are also en-route via Mogadishu, consisting of health kits with essential medicines to treat common childhood illnesses, such as respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, minor injuries and worm infestation, for 10 health facilities to reach up to 100,000 people over a period of three months," said UNICEF Representative to Somalia, Rozanne Chorlton. "We are ready to work anywhere in Somalia, provided we get unhindered access to reach the most vulnerable children in need," she said.

Children who are severely malnourished are at nine times more likely to die than healthy children, and even children who are moderately malnourished have a significantly higher risk of dying. Malnutrition robs a child of vital micronutrients that are essential to his or her growth and development, and makes children more susceptible to disease. Where it does not kill, malnutrition can leave permanent scars; it can leave a child physically and intellectually damaged and suffering from the consequences of a weakened immune system.

Between January and May, UNICEF and its partners treated over 100,000 acutely malnourished children, through almost 800 nutrition centers across Somalia. Of these, 460 children were reported to have died (90 per month on average), with over 86% of mortality cases reported from central south regions. These children constitute reported cases only; many more children may be dying before reaching the feeding centers.

"Resolving the lack of food aid and other resources to address food insecurity in the south is of utmost urgency to alleviate the impact of the current crisis. However, food alone is not enough. Children and their families need health services, clean water, nutrition and an adequate level of care and protection." Said Chorlton.

In addition to the on-going interventions that UNICEF has been supporting without interruption in most of central and southern Somalia, including the operation of over 500 therapeutic and supplementary feeding centers for treating acutely malnourished children, UNICEF is scaling up its response to address the current crisis.

For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:

Website: www.unicefusa.org/donate/horn

Toll free: 1-800-4UNICEF (1-800-486-4233)

Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. But still, 22,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:

Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, (m) 646.428.5010, smasur@unicefusa.org

Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, kschoop@unicefusa.org

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