Life-saving and livelihood support urgently needed to prevent loss of lives.
ROME, Italy, May 16, 2019 – A disastrous drought in Somalia could leave some 2.2 million people – nearly 18 percent of the population – faced with severe hunger during the July-September period, FAO warned today.
The UN agency issued a special alert on Somalia, indicating that the number of hungry people in the country this year is expected to be 40 percent higher than estimates made at the beginning of 2019.
A deteriorating nutritional status is also of major concern, according to the alert. Acute malnutrition rates as well as the number of acutely malnourished children being admitted to therapeutic feeding centres have sharply increased in 2019.
“Rains in April and early May can make or break Somalis’ food security for the whole year as they are crucial for the country’s main annual harvest in July, following the “Gu” rainy season,” said Mario Zappacosta, FAO Senior Economist and lead of the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
“A significant lack of rains in April and early May has rendered dry and barren up to 85 percent of the croplands in the country’s breadbaskets, and according to the latest projections, food grown during the “Gu” season is likely to be 50 percent below average,” he added.
The latest projection is based on data gathered by FAO experts – including sophisticated analyses of rainfall, temperatures, water availability and vegetation health – that point to the worst drought in years. Some rains are expected in May, but these will be insufficient and arrive too late for crop and pasture recovery before the onset of the dry season.
For example, in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, which produces more than 60 percent of maize grown during the “Gu” season, severe dryness has prevailed so far, with only some scattered, below-average rains occurring in late April and early May.
Drought conditions also affected other major crop producing areas, including the Bay region’s “sorghum belt”, which accounts for more than half of the country’s sorghum production during the “Gu” season, and the “cowpea belt” in Middle Shabelle, Mudug and Galgaduud regions.
Drought takes a heavy toll on herders and their livestock
Poor rains since last October have also taken a heavy toll on herders and their livestock as vegetation has been drying up and water has been increasingly scarce.
The FAO alert warns of a worrying number of animals in very poor health conditions – due to low body weight and drought-induced diseases – in the country’s central and northern regions.
“Herders in the worst drought-affected areas – such as central Galgaduud and in northern Bari and Sanaag regions – have been forced to slaughter the offspring of their goats and sheep as they don’t have enough fodder and water for all their animals, and try to save the milk-producing female livestock,” said FAO Somalia Representative Serge Tissot.
“Many herders have not been able to replace livestock lost during the 2017 drought that ravaged the country, so they already have less resources. Now, on top of that, as food and water become scarcer, they have to pay higher prices for trucked-in water and their daily food,” added Tissot.
Action is needed now to prevent loss of lives
Drought and early depletion of food stocks, compounded by declining employment opportunities and low wages for farmers, shortages of livestock products in pastoral areas as well as both heightened conflict and a reduction of humanitarian assistance since early 2019 have all led to a sharp deterioration of the food security situation in the country.
FAO is scaling up its response to prevent an already alarming humanitarian situation from getting even worse. For this, FAO urgently needs more funds as it aims to support 2 million drought-affected people this year by providing critical livelihood support such as cash assistance, quality seeds, tools, and other agricultural services so farmers can make the most of the next planting season.
To protect their remaining livestock, herders require vital support such as water and supplementary feed. Countrywide animal health campaigns must also be rolled out quickly – starting with emergency livestock treatments to keep animals alive, healthy and productive.
Currently, FAO has a funding gap of about $115 million in Somalia.
Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 7, 2019 – From the moment we’re born, we’re all at risk of contracting diseases. So the question is, are we aware enough? Are we responsible enough? Are we immune enough? Not long ago infections like influenza, tetanus, chickenpox and measles were prolonged, painful illnesses, which often resulted in death. Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.
The Expanded Programmme on Immunization (EPI) started in Somalia in 1978 with the support of WHO and UNICEF. Due to the prolonged conflict and instability Somalia’s health system, including immunization services, is very weak, fragmented and severely under-funded. Control of vaccine-preventable diseases remains a huge challenge in Somalia, due to the low routine immunization coverage and the continued inability to reach children in security-compromised areas, hard-to-reach areas, nomadic children and competing health priorities for parents other than immunization of children. Low routine immunization coverage and a history of serious outbreaks that have hit Somalia in the past are a strong reminder of the risks posed by large cohort of un-immunized children. Vaccine-preventable diseases are prevalent in Somalia and child mortality is 137 per 1000 live births.
Somalia has been providing the traditional 6 antigens in routine immunization and with the support of GAVI – the Vaccine Alliance and immunization partners like UNICEF and WHO. The country has introduced pentavalent vaccine in 2013 and inactivated polio virus vaccine in 2015 and plans to introduce measles-containing-vaccine second-dose (MCV2) in 2020. With the continuous support of GAVI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International and other important donors immunization coverage has improved in recent years; however, Somalia has still not attained the desired levels of coverage.
To improve immunization coverage more efforts needs to be in place for integrated approach along with other programmes like nutrition, malaria, water and sanitation and communication programmes to complement the reach of immunization and improve coverage of all eligible children with equity.
Somalia faced a deadly measles outbreak in 2017; out of the 31 000 people affected, 83% were children under the age of 10. WHO Somalia’s Emergency Response team, Somali national authorities, and partners targeted 4.7 million children in the nationwide measles campaign. During this intervention, around 4.5 million children were vaccinated. As a result of the nationwide immunization campaign conducted, as of April 2019, Somalia witnessed a decline in the trend of cases reported this year. This steady progress can be attributed to partners’ commitment to strengthen routine immunization and to reach out to unvaccinated children to boost their immunity. However, Somalia’s children are still not out of danger – measles outbreaks are likely to spread in security-compromised inaccessible areas.
Somalia’s last outbreak of wild poliovirus, which occurred from 2013 to 2014, affected 194 children. Since then, as a result of mass and more focused immunization campaigns, and robust surveillance for polio symptoms to guide immunization activities, the country has been free of wild poliovirus. However, due to the challenges faced in reaching hard-to-reach areas, the country is currently experiencing 2 outbreaks of rare strains of the poliovirus, which have affected 13 children so far. The last nationwide polio campaign, conducted in March, vaccinated more than 2.7 million children under 5. More than 84 000 children were vaccinated for the first time.
Marked during the last week of April, World Immunization Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. WHO wants to assure parents and communities in Somalia that vaccines are safe, effective, and can lead to lifetime immunity from diseases.
While celebrating World Immunization Week with the theme “Protected Together: Vaccines Work”, Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia, called for scaling up the routine immunization programme in Somalia through working together with partners, communities and grass-root level organization. In 2018, Somali authorities, WHO and partners vaccinated more than 400 000 children against measles as part of routine immunization programme. Yet, about 170 000 children were missed or did not receive the first dose of measles vaccine last year. “Our priority is to reach out to all these children who misses the routine vaccine doses or remain unvaccinated owing to access or any other barrier. Leaving no child behind, we can ensure every child’s right to lead a healthy and productive life- if all who need to vaccinated are vaccinated in a timely way,” he stated.
In the last decade, Somali health authorities and WHO worked with Gavi and other key partners to strengthen routine immunization. This protected 2.4m children against 8 vaccine-preventable childhood diseases.
Somalia has shown remarkable progress in achieving good immunization coverage for some diseases that is realistically feasible to achieve in a fragile state, lot of works still need to be continued and scaled up to fill the immunization gaps through enhancing partnerships with other local stakeholders which is the key theme of this year’s World Immunization Week. Responding to outbreaks of measles or polio is a priority but can be prevented through achieving high coverage in routine immunization programme and also by reaching out to the children who do not receive any vaccine during the first year of their life.
Despite the gains made by vaccination over the years, there are still unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in Somalia today. As a consequence, millions of children are being put at risk against vaccine-preventable diseases. As part of this year’s campaign, grass-root level vaccinators who spearhead all barriers to reach every child in inaccessible areas of the country were honoured as immunization heroes. Their roles in keeping children healthy and securing a safer future has been acknowledged throughout the country.