Child malnutrition in Somalia at dire levels: ICRC

Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:57pm GMT

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - One in 10 children in parts of drought-hit Somalia is at risk of starving to death, twice as many as recently as March, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday.

Malnutrition rates were believed to be significantly higher in other conflict-torn parts of central and southern Somalia, where few aid groups have been allowed to bring food relief.

"Levels of malnutrition have reached a new peak and are currently the highest in the world," the ICRC said in a statement.

The independent aid agency, one of very few with access to Somalia's worst-hit areas, said that even in the Bay and Lower Shabelle regions, the traditional breadbaskets, nearly 11 percent of children under five had severe acute malnutrition.

This meant they were at risk of starving to death. Rates were believed to be significantly higher in other areas.

"In some parts of Somalia, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition has almost doubled since March."

The disturbing findings were based on data from 39 clinics and 18 therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent with its support. The ICRC said it was opening 10 new feeding centres in Bakool, Gedo and the Afgoye corridor.

The United Nations said on Tuesday it was struggling to keep up with an exodus of hungry Somali refugees. Emaciated children were dying of malnutrition along the way or after arriving in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, it said.   Continued...

<p>Internally displaced Somali children take breakfast outside their makeshift shelter at a camp outside Mogadishu, August 2, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Faruk</p>
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