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Urgent food aid needed to avert humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia - UN

4 September 2009 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is calling on donors to help avert a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia, where half the population – or some 3.8 million people – are in need of assistance.

WFP is urgently appealing for 217,000 metric tons of food, worth over $200 million, to feed 3.5 million people by the end of October when stocks will run-out, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The appeal follows a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicating that half the Somali population is in need of assistance, marking an 18 per cent increase from 3.2 million in only six months.

OCHA also reported that the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its local partners this week reached 7,500 children under the age of five in Baidoa with high energy biscuits to supplement their regular diet.

According to the recent FAO report, emergency nutrition levels in several parts of the country have deteriorated further since January, with one in five children, up from one in six earlier this year, now acutely malnourished and one in 20 severely malnourished, among the highest rates in the world.

In the whole of Somalia, nearly 300,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, of whom 70,000 are severely malnourished and are at an increased risk of death without appropriate specialist care.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), led by Deputy Special Representative Charles Petrie, has visited Somaliland this week to explore ways of strengthening the UN’s engagement in that region.

The delegation met with representatives of various political parties and civil society, as well as other officials, and held a constructive meeting with the President of Somaliland, Dahir Riyale Kahin.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, welcomed the visit and said he hoped it was proof of Somaliland’s determination to move towards peace and compromise.

“Somaliland has an impressive history of resolving its internal tensions peacefully and I hope this tradition will be used to address the current challenges,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said.

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