Monthly Nutrition Update for Somalia Jan 2002


The month was marked by an increased level of interest in the form of field visits, new activities and a series of meetings held in Nairobi in response to the critical situation in Gedo, as demonstrated by the results of the recent nutrition survey in Belet Hawa. Donor and organisation interest in supporting short-term and emergency interventions has been extremely positive but the same level of commitment to longer term interventions aimed at strengthening livelihoods in Gedo, Bay and Bakool is less evident. This being the case, we should accept that food aid interventions will be required for Gedo for the foreseeable future.

It is significant to note that experience in these areas of Somalia and the neighbouring Kenya in recent years has shown that even when the emergency is considered over, malnutrition rates in Gedo remain at totally unacceptable levels of 15-20% with the associated high levels of mortality and morbidity. The population of Gedo continues to exist in the most precarious state, relying on extremely fragile livelihoods, little functional infrastructure and with few or no health and education services in one of the most insecure areas in Somalia. The humanitarian community needs to be sensitive to the human suffering, the unnecessary mortality and the lost potential that can never, ever be considered ‘normal for Gedo’.

The increasing concern about populations in Bari Region in Puntland has also been highlighted, with the situation all the more worrying because of the reduced level of access to the area for staff of international organisations. The necessity to undertake a nutrition survey has been acknowledged, in order to provide a more accurate indicator as to the current status of the affected populations.

Results of a nutrition survey undertaken in the Zeila and Lughaya areas of Awdal Region (Somaliland) in November 2001 by UNICEF, MOHL and Somali Red Crescent Society showed a surprisingly high level of global malnutrition at 27% (see p4). Recommendations for interventions in this sparsely populated area are likely to prioritise those in the water sector.


With further analysis of the nutrition survey in Belet Hawa1 now completed, most organisations have conceded to the harsh truth that the figures do in fact represent the reality. A series of meetings and field visits have facilitated analysis of the adequacy and appropriateness of the current and planned interventions throughout Gedo Region, recognising that the districts to the north of the region remain critically food insecure, while the situation in the south has improved somewhat. With security remaining an overriding constraint, initial efforts to implement the appropriate emergency response, particularly in relation to selective feeding and health interventions focussed on increasing the capacity and resources of organisations already present in the region. This approach is now being reviewed.

In contrast to many emergency situations, strengthening of the general food distribution was not prompted by the nutrition survey. In fact, the general food distribution had increased in quantity and variety (lentils and oil added) to the food basket from the December distribution. The nutrition survey was undertaken immediately after the first of these distributions and so the impact of this food was not reflected in the survey results. Post distribution monitoring and closer examination of issues related to intra-household food availability and use are now priority activities to ensure that this food is reaching those in greatest need.

This graph demonstrates the distribution of weights in the population surveyed in Belet Hawa in December 2001


1 Global acute malnutrition rate (weight for height Z-score <-2 or oedema) of 37%, and severe acute malnutrition (weight for height <-3 Z-score or oedema) of 8%. Full report now available from FSAU.

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