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Drought Raises Malnutrition Risk for Somali Children

Somalis who fled drought-stricken areas carry their belongings as they arrive at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said Tuesday that nearly half of Somalia’s population under five years old, more than 1.4 million children, are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition because of the ongoing drought.

UNICEF cited a report released last week by the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Assessment unit, which also said nearly 330,000 of the 1.4 million children would suffer from severe malnutrition this year.

Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa are facing the region’s worst drought in a decade, which has been worsened by armed conflict.

“We know that humanitarian emergencies of this magnitude disproportionately affect children,” UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney said in a statement. “The numbers we are seeing this year are quite high and, unless urgent measures are taken, thousands of children are at risk of dying.”

Last week the United Nations World Food Program warned that 13 million people in the region, including parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, face severe hunger in the first quarter of this year. The WFP said immediate aid is needed to prevent a major humanitarian crisis.

The regional crisis has prompted UNICEF to issue an urgent appeal for $7 million before the end of March to purchase 104,000 cartons of “ready-to-use" therapeutic foods for the treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition” to avoid a shortage of the food supplies this summer.

Somalia’s government declared a state of humanitarian emergency in November in response to the drought.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.