Thousands of children have been diagnosed with cholera or acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in Somalia since the beginning of the year, raising fears figures will outstrip the 130 000 children killed in the famine in 2011. More than 18 400 cases of cholera/AWD have been reported a few months into 2017, far surpassing the 15 600 cases reported the whole of 2016. “These numbers are a wake-up call,” said Leila Pakkala, United Nations Children’s Fund director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Children are dying from malnutrition, hunger, thirst and disease. We are working with partners around the clock to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) are nine times more likely to die of disease than a well-nourished child.
During the 2011 famine, the biggest killers were diarrhoea and measles. Six years since famine was declared in parts of south-central Somalia, the country is again on the brink of catastrophe with the drought and conflict more widespread. In February, UNICEF projected that 944 000 children would be acutely malnourished in 2017, including 185 000 children suffering from SAM who would need urgent, lifesaving support. That number could shoot up, even if the next rains due to start late April come on time, and in full. UNICEF Somalia has raised its 2017 funding requirement from $66 million (R886 million) to $147 million, with a funding gap of 54% as of mid-March. “This year, many donors have come forward early but the worst may still be ahead of us,” Pakkala warned