Alarming malnutrition rates as food crisis hits Shabelle region

Early warning agencies have reported a rapidly worsening food security situation in southern Somalia after the poorest harvest in a decade and escalating insecurity that has disrupted economic activities, caused high inflation and left people displaced.
More than 600,000 people in Lower and Middle Shabelle and Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, are in the midst of a sudden humanitarian emergency – characterised by high rates of acute and severe malnutrition, the Food Security Analysis Unit for Somalia (FAO/FSAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) said in a joint report issued on August 14.

Lower and Middle Shabelle, both of which border on volatile Mogadishu, are Somalia's most fertile regions, but the 2007 harvest from the ‘Gu’ (April-June) season has been the worst in the past decade because of below normal rainfall, according to FSAU and FEWS Net.

Nutrition surveys confirmed that acute malnutrition rates in the Shabelle regions were currently above the emergency threshold level of 15 percent and that severe acute malnutrition rates were alarmingly high at four percent.

The two agencies called for complementary humanitarian assistance focused on immediate needs, including food, clean water, health services, shelter and sanitation, as well as protection against the complete loss of livelihood assets to ensure future recovery.

"Advocacy to cease the tide of civil insecurity and political instability at all levels is critical to allow greater humanitarian access, to encourage the resumption of economic activities, and to prevent a further slide into an even greater humanitarian crisis of increased magnitude and scale," said Cindy Holleman, the chief technical adviser of FSAU.

''Advocacy to cease the tide of civil insecurity and political instability at all levels is critical to allow humanitarian access''

Despite improvements in some areas affected by drought and flooding in 2005 and 2006, including Juba and Gedo regions, the overall number of people in need of assistance in Somalia had since March, 2007, risen from one million to 1.5 million as a result of the crisis in Shabelle, FSAU and FEWS Net said.

Of the 1.5 million people, 295,000 required life saving interventions, while 490,000 were in an “acute food and livelihood crisis requiring support”.

In addition, there are 325,000 people newly displaced from Mogadishu, and 400,000 displaced for a longer time, who were in need of both life and livelihood saving interventions.

Field assessments had also shown deteriorating food security for the riverine and agro-pastoralists in Hiran region, the two agencies said.

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