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UNICEF Feeds 44,000 Displaced Somali Children

UNICEF feeds 44,000 displaced Somali children

14 May 2008 - Against a backdrop of drought, soaring food prices and large numbers of people being driven out of their homes by armed conflict, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has provided food to 44,000 displaced children in war-ravaged Somalia.

The agency warned that more than 2.6 million Somalis are currently considered 'food insecure,' and this number could climb to 3.5 million - almost half of the Horn of Africa nation's population - by the end of the year.

"We are extremely concerned about the most vulnerable among this group and we are using all means possible to prevent a catastrophe for the youngest children," said Unni Silkoset, a UNICEF nutrition officer in Somalia.

In the past three days, a supplementary food gruel called UNIMIX was provided to 44,000 children under the age of five, who are among the estimated 300,000 people who have fled clashes in the capital Mogadishu.

Over the next three months, each of the 44,000 children will receive 10 kilograms of the fortified corn-soya blend per month.

UNICEF, in collaboration with local elders and the Somali non-governmental organization (NGO) Jumbo Peace and Development, seeks to reach over 90 per cent of all children who have been displaced from Mogadishu.

The agency hopes that its distribution of UNIMIX will minimize the risk of malnutrition, with UNICEF's partners reporting that the numbers of severely malnourished children have risen.

In recent weeks, the already frail humanitarian situation in Somalia has deteriorated even further, with rising food prices, an extremely harsh dry season and a delayed start to the rains. The areas which have been most heavily impacted - including Middle and Lower Shabelle, Benadir, Galgadud and Bakool - are also those with high population density and displaced communities.

Further hampering the aid effort is the fluctuating political and security situation in central and southern Somalia, UNICEF said.

"More than ever before in recent history, we are seeing hundreds of thousands of families at the brink of survival and we are working round the clock to find additional ways of reaching them with assistance despite the very difficult security situation," said Christian Balslev-Oldsen, UNICEF Representative.

The agency is also working to provide safe drinking water to the displaced living along the Mogadishu-Afgoye corridor, with some 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) benefiting from UNICEF's water trucking and other relief activities.

ENDS

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