‘We have the aid to save the lives of thousands of Somalis but we need safe passage’
(Mogadishu/New York, 13 August 2011): Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, on a one-day visit to the Somali capital Mogadishu, visited Banadir Hospital, where the most severe cases of malnutrition, mostly in children, are treated.
“It’s heartbreaking. The children are so weak they can’t lift their heads, while their mothers are in despair,” said Ms Amos.
Banadir Hospital is Mogadishu’s main hospital, and one of the only four places in the city where children with acute malnutrition can be treated. In the last month 460 children were admitted but only 305 survived. There are 390,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia, of which 320,000 are in the south. In the next 12 months, the number of acutely malnourished is expected to rise to 780,000.
The hospital has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases of acute watery diarrhea and cholera. In the last two months it has treated 1,633 cases, and more than 181 people have died this year from cholera. “We can save the lives of these children if we can treat them early enough, but we also need to get aid to areas outside Mogadishu where most of the people in desperate need are,” said Ms Amos. “That is why I am here. I want to make sure everyone understands the depth of this crisis.”
Ms Amos also met with United Nations and non-governmental organization national staff, who are risking their lives to get aid to people who need it. Partners highlighted to Ms Amos the main challenges of working in Somalia, including security, the protection of displaced people, and coordinating the many humanitarian organizations at work.
In her meeting with the Transitional Federal Government, Ms Amos highlighted the need for more safety and security for people in Mogadishu. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 people have recently fled famine areas and settled in makeshift camps in Mogadishu.
“I was shocked at the level of destruction, but I was also impressed by the level of activity in the city,” Ms Amos said. “Normal activities like small shops were open and people were in the streets. It gave me hope.” 3.2 million people are on the brink of starvation in Somalia, and the famine is expected to get worse in the coming weeks. Ms Amos wraps up her three day mission tomorrow with a visit to Dadaab, the world’s biggest refugee camp, in Kenya.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.