Child Malnutrition Levels Spike as Drought Worsens in Somalia

SOMALIA, 25 MAY 2022 - The number of acutely malnourished children admitted to CARE-supported health facilities has increased by 60 per cent in the first four months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. Health facilities admitted 3,501 children with severe malnutrition so far compared to 2,155 admitted during the same period in 2021. 

CARE is concerned by the number of children who are showing up at health facilities emaciated with the current drought leaving families not knowing where their next meal will come from. 

Afmadow Health Facility admitted 8-month-old baby Halima who weight only four kilos and was severely dehydrated. Her parents are farmers who lost their entire crop due to the lack of rain that has exacerbated drought conditions in the country. “We have not received rainfall in more than two years, our crops and food stocks have been wiped away. I cannot provide milk for my child, so we give her water and a little food which is not sufficient,” says Halima’s mother. 

The long-lasting drought in Somalia has left more than 1.4 million children severely malnourished. The numbers are expected to increase as the country faces its fourth consecutive failed rainfall season and is now on the brink of famine. Shortfalls in local food production combined with the disruption of global trade have led to a substantial decrease in imports to meet local needs. This has resulted food prices to increase more than 36 per cent. Wheat prices are up more than 40 per cent. With the loss of over 700,000 livestock, milk production has also dropped. With no way of making money, families are starving as the situation gets worse. 

“We are expecting the number of malnourished children to rise each day,” says Elmi AbdiNur CARE Somalia’s Emergency Director. “The increase in patient admissions is overwhelming our health facilities and we need more support to reach more children, especially in remote areas. With no urgent attention and the scaling-up of responses, indicators point to possibly more child deaths than we saw in 2011.”  

CARE is working through a network of 56 Ministry of Health (MOH) Facilities and 77 mobile units providing free lifesaving health and nutrition services to pregnant and lactating women as well as children under five years. Even with these ongoing interventions, it is key to note that there is a decrease in the number of pre- and postnatal visits. Mothers have to travel long distances to look for food and water for the household. With men absent from the home they also occupy all household duties, finding no time to come to the health facilities. 

“As a mother, I cry every day seeing my child suffer due to lack of food. This drought has taken away our dignity. How can a parent fail to feed her children?” says Halima’s mother. 

The 2022 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan requires US$1.46 billion to reach 5.5 million people across all 74 districts of the country. With only 8.4 per cent of the response plan funded, the funding gap stands at 91.6 per cent. The cost of inaction will result in a catastrophic disaster.  

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Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization working around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice. CARE puts women and girls at the centre of our work because we know we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities. CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls to lift themselves, their families, and communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE works in over 100 countries around the world.

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