400,000 children risk death through starvation in Somalia

Up to 400,000 children are at risk of death through starvation if urgent action is not taken now, Andrew Mitchell said today on a visit to Mogadishu. The International Development Secretary announced Britain will supply vital aid, including extra food and medical supplies, to more than 800,000 women and children in Somalia, as figures show that half of those who have died during the famine in Somalia are children.

Mr Mitchell – the first British Minister to visit Mogadishu in over 18 years – warned that without an urgent response, the crisis could become as bad as the famine in 1991-2. This saw over 200,000 people lose their lives. Aid workers are now seeing some of the same severe malnutrition rates in certain areas, and over 50% of the population is affected.

Lack of health care, inadequate immunisation, poor access to clean water and sanitation are all contributing to a rise in disease outbreaks, including cholera and measles. Urgent action in all these sectors, not just food assistance, is vital to prevent more unnecessary deaths.

The UK’s new package of support to the UN organisation for children, UNICEF, will allow them to double the number of children they are reaching in their supplementary feeding programme. The £25m children’s package will provide:

  • up to 192,000 people with two months of supplementary rations
  • supplies to vaccinate at least 800,000 children against measles, plus 300,000 with polio vaccines, vitamin A and deworming
  • support to malaria preparedness, including provision of over 100,000 treated bednets, 50,000 malaria testing kits, and treatment capacity for 4,000 cases of malaria

Speaking in Mogadishu, Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said:

“I came to Mogadishu today to see first-hand how Britain can best help people that have been hit by this devastating famine. Evidence of malnutrition is not just in the camps and feeding centres but on every street corner.

“The stark fact is that in southern Somalia the situation is deteriorating by the day. We could face deaths on a similar scale to those seen in 1991-2 if we do not act urgently now. This is a race against time.

“That is why we are providing this crucial package of support aimed at children, which comes on top of earlier UK support to the region – and the generous help given by the British public through the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.

“But we must also see better security and more access for humanitarian workers. I have discussed these issues with the Prime Minister today. By responding quickly, we can save many more lives and avert a human catastrophe.

“Other countries must also maintain and increase their support at this crucial stage. Or we risk seeing a whole generation of people decimated by starvation and disease – and further instability across the region.”

During Mr Mitchell’s historic visit to Mogadishu he visited an IDP camp and feeding centre, discussed progress of aid delivery with British-backed UN and NGO partners, met with Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed as well as the Deputy Mayor Iman Nur Icar, the Ministers for Women and Family Affairs, Planning and International Co-operation, and Minister for Interior and State Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Finance and Information.

The UK will also provide £4m to FAO to help protect the remaining livestock by supporting treatment and vaccination of 2.1 million animals weakened by the drought, benefitting 70,000 livestock owners and distribute seeds and fertilisers to 12,500 households.

Britain’s response to the drought crisis in Somalia will now provide:

  • treatment for over 60,000 acutely malnourished children;
  • cash and/or vouchers to over 160,000 people for at least three months to purchase food;
  • 2 months of blanket supplementary rations to 192,000 people to prevent malnutrition;
  • food rations for over 19,000 people for up to three months;
  • access to safe water for over 300,000 people;
  • livestock support or agricultural supplies (including seeds) to 191,600 people;
  • access to healthcare to 140,000 people;
  • measles vaccinations for 800,000 children;
  • 100,000 treated bednets to prevent malaria;
  • shelter for over 46,000 people.