Gift of the Givers lend helping hand in Somalia

2011-07-20 00:00

LOCALLY based aid organisation Gift of the Givers is gearing up to assist in what has been described as “most severe humanitarian emergency in the world”.

Somalia is facing severe drought that has been worsened by conflict, insecurity and very high food prices.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), over half a million children in Somalia are acutely malnourished and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The south of the country is worst hit, which is home to 80% of all malnourished children.

Gift of the Givers’s Dr Yakub Essack said, one representative and the chairperson of the organisation, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, are already in Somalia to assess the situation.

“We are at the preliminary stage of the mission and two of organisation’s personnel are there to just assess the situation so we can fully know what is needed and which areas we should target,” Essack added.

He told The Witness that by tomorrow they would have full knowledge of the situation.

However, already R5 million in high energy nutrition packs and water are on standby to respond to the poverty stricken country.

About 460 children reported to have acute malnutrition have died between January and May 2011.

“Children who are severely malnourished are nine times more likely to die than healthy children and even children who are moderately malnourished have a significantly higher risk of dying,” said Unicef.

The World Food Programme is contemplating going back to Somalia to provide relief after it withdrew from areas under the control of the Islamist Al-Shabab in southern Somalia at the beginning of 2010 because of threats to the lives of staff and the imposition of unacceptable operating conditions.

The death rate among Somalis arriving at refugee camps has reached several times above levels seen in emergency situations, the UN refugees agency said yesterday.

“The situation in Dolo Ado is very dire,” said the UNHCR’s chief of public health section, Paul Spiegel, referring to the Ethiopian refugee camp where thousands of Somali refugees have sought shelter in recent weeks.

Mortality rate in June reached 7,4 deaths per 10 000 a day, sharply above the sub-Saharan baseline rate of 0,5 and the emergency situation of above one death.

“It’s 15 times the baseline and the preponderance of the deaths are among under-five children,” said Spiegel, adding that death rates for young children are generally over twice that of the overall population.

A famine is generally declared when mortality rate reaches over two deaths per 10 000 person per day, and when wasting of above 30% occurs across an entire region, according to UN criteria.

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