The war in Ukraine has diverted international attention and donations. In several countries, especially in the Horn of Africa, the situation is deteriorating every day with drought, lack of crops and food, which are increasingly expensive.
“Children are the first victims”, warns Mariana Palavra, an employee of the UNICEF Rapid Emergency Response Team, in an interview with Renaissancedays after returning from Somalia.
Half a million children between life and death in Somalia
Somalia is the largest and most populous of the five countries in the Horn of Africa. It has 16 million inhabitants and among these, one and a half million children who suffer from acute malnutrition. A third of these with severe acute malnutrition.
“In other words, we are talking about half a million children who are literally between life and death ”, underlines Mariana Palavra, a member of the UNICEF Rapid Emergency Response Team who completed a mission in Somalia in recent days.
Mariana Palavra also says that the number of cases of malnutrition has accelerated in recent months. More and more people are seeking help from hospitals and especially from humanitarian organizations, particularly UNICEF.
In addition, the lack of water makes people look for it in less safe sources. “They are consuming water that is not potable, untreated and cases of cholera have increased significantly. Since January, there are already more than 8,000”, he tells Renaissance this element of the United Nations Children’s Organization.
The Ukraine war also has an impact on Africa: many of the donor countries, still suffering the effects of the pandemic, had already reduced contributions and the war diverted even more funds to help the millions of Ukrainian refugees. On the other hand, the price of oil and energy skyrocketed and with them, the prices of the food that Africa increasingly needs to import.
The drought is nothing new for African countries, but in the case of Somalia, this is the worst in 40 years. This causes populations to abandon regions where there is no water, where it is not possible to cultivate the fields or even survive. Across the country, there are about one million displaced people. “And these children, on the move or staying with their families in camps for displaced people, are not going to school. They are missing out on all opportunities for healthy growth.”
Mariana Palavra also reveals the resumption of a practice that UNICEF has been trying to stop for several years: the early marriage of girls. “It ends up being a way for families to have one less mouth to eat”.
Humanitarian assistance from organizations such as UNICEF is, in many cases, the only one that populations can count on. But working in the field can become very complicated. The organizations are “a target to shoot down” by Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Shabad.
One example is the attack by the al-Qaida-linked group on a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, where members of the government and international organizations were housed.
There are occupied areas that they cannot even enter; in others, these humanitarian organizations rely – to a large extent – on national officials who are more easily able to do the work and interact with local populations. International employees end up staying for a very limited time and always safely. “It’s difficult and it’s a big risk for colleagues at the organizations we work with, some based in Somalia.”
Call for increased international monetary aid
Since the beginning of the year, the global food crisis has already led to over 260,000 children suffering severe weight loss in 15 countries particularly affected by the crisis, including the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region, according to a report recently presented. by UNICEF.
In the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Djibouti) and the Sahel, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition could rapidly increase from 1.7 to 2 million in the coming months.
With a greater number of cases and the prospect of an increase in the price of therapeutic foods by around 16% in the next six months, UNICEF calls for an increase in international monetary aid. US$1.2 billion is the financial package needed to provide medical and nutritional care to millions of children in these countries most affected by drought hunger.
In addition to state aid, individual citizens can also contribute. Mariana Palavra leaves an invitation: “Visit the UNICEF page and look at what is happening, for example, in Somalia. I know there has been some mistrust of international organizations and the way funds are spent. Therefore, to gain people’s trust, it is first necessary that they read, know what is going on and the work that is done. And then, each one will find the best way to help”.
What is therapeutic food and how much does it cost?
RUTF (Ready-To-Use-Therapeutic) or therapeutic food. It is a ready-to-use paste, consisting of peanuts, sugar, therapeutic milk, oil, vitamins and minerals. It does not need to be stored in the cold or taken with water (which in some cases would be a risk) and can be kept for up to two years.
A child with severe acute malnutrition should take three sachets/day for at least three weeks.
Although the prices of the foods that make up this therapeutic paste fluctuate daily, 150 sachets currently cost about 50 dollars.
Source: Renascença – Noticias by rr.sapo.pt.
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