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Over 80,000 Somali Children Suffer From Malnutrition, 14,000 at Risk of Dying, Says UNICEF

In parts of Somalia once considered the breadbasket of the country, thousands of children are reported to be at risk of dying from malnutrition.

Christian Balslev-Olesen is UNICEF’s representative for Somalia. From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the problems children face in Somalia.

“We are extremely concerned about the latest survey done in Somalia, indicating that we have a severe malnutrition crisis in central and south Somalia. The total number of children directly suffering from malnutrition just now is 83,000. Out of them you have close to 14,000 children who are extremely and severely malnourished and at the risk of dying because of the present situation,” he says.

Over all in Somalia, he estimates 1.5 million people need humanitarian assistance. Most are women and children.

“Malnutrition is not a new phenomenon in Somalia, but unfortunately we are seeing now the effects of the ongoing crisis…first drought, then flooding, then conflict with a number of internally displaced people. This is the background to this new, very serious situation. And you have the level of malnutrition that you will not find in any other places around the world for the time being,” Balslev-Olesen says.

He says it’s been difficult reaching those in need, “because of the conflict, the security situation and thereby access is a main problem…but we have already 60 feeding programs going on in Somalia. We are treating 15,000 malnourished children each month. So we definitely are working closely with a number of partners to increase that capacity to reach out to each and everyone just now. It is difficult, but if we get the funding, if we get the support, if the Somalis themselves make sure that we have peace, stability and security, we can make it.”