Half of Somali children reaching camps are malnourished, warns UN

2011-08-05 09:13

Nearly half of the Somali children fleeing the war and drought in their country and arriving in refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya suffer from malnutrition, the United Nations has said.

“Reports of children dying along the way from Somalia or just as they arrive at the camps are disturbingly common,” said the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef).

The US aid agency, USAID, believes 29 000 children under five have died in the last three months in southern Somalia, according to recent testimony before Congress.

Dadaab camp in Kenya, one of the largest refugee encampments in the world, now houses more than 400 000 people, according to the UN, though it was built for just 90 000.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday made a rare direct appeal to the Islamist al-Shabaab militia in Somalia to give full and free access to relief workers trying to aid civilians hit by the worst African food crisis in decades.

The al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab bans most aid agencies from operating in southern and central areas of the country it controls. The people fleeing the regions say those left behind are desperately in need of relief supplies.

Over 12.5 million people are affected by the drought in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Five regions of Somalia, including areas around the capital Mogadishu, are officially seeing famine conditions.

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