Somalia: the struggle against food insecurity continues

27-09-2011 Operational Update

The situation in Somalia remains highly critical. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are still displaced from their homes in search of security and food. Although humanitarian aid has started to reach the drought- and conflict-affected people, many are still struggling to survive.

Much of the livestock has been decimated and there is no hope for an improvement in the situation until the next harvest in December. The deyr rainy season is set to begin in October, but even when it brings abundant rain it accounts for only 30 per cent of the yearly food production, which is not enough to meet the immense needs.

"Trying to lower the record high levels of malnutrition under such circumstances is an uphill battle," said Andrea Heath, who is in charge of the ICRC's economic-security activities in Somalia. "But we do have reason to be optimistic about children receiving treatment in therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent Society. At least 95 per cent of them will be cured within two months."

Although military offensives have become less frequent in Mogadishu and are now taking place mainly in the border areas, the armed conflict continues to take its toll. Hit-and-run attacks and explosions of roadside bombs are reported several times a week in the capital. Tension is palpable along the Kenyan border, particularly in the Gedo region.

In response to the worsening situation, the ICRC has considerably stepped up its activities in the central and southern parts of the country over the past few weeks and is planning to help an additional one million people by the end of the year.

Alleviating food insecurity and malnutrition

The ICRC has strengthened its support for therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent. The centres offer treatment for children under five and other vulnerable people such as pregnant and lactating mothers. Over 10,000 children are currently being treated for severe acute malnutrition.

The expanded set-up includes nine new outpatient therapeutic feeding centres in Gedo, Bakool, Middle Juba and Banadir and more staff for the 18 older centres. The ICRC and the Somali Red Crescent have also deployed nine mobile health and nutrition teams in addition to three that were mobilized earlier in the year.

In addition, three new feeding centres have been opened in Kismayo to offer supplementary feeding for displaced and other needy people.

In July and August, the ICRC and the Somali Red Crescent distributed one-month rations of beans, rice and oil to over 162,000 people in the areas of central and southern Somalia hardest hit by drought.

"Even as we strive to meet the most urgent needs, our long-term objective of reviving or boosting the livelihoods of the worst-off communities, wherever possible in a sustainable manner, remains unchanged," said Pascal Mauchle, the head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia.

In accordance with this aim, the ICRC distributed 134 irrigation pumps in July and August to help increase food production for over 6,200 people. In addition, more than 200 people are taking part in cash-for-work projects upgrading irrigation channels along the Shabelle River. Another 140 people have been given items to help them set up small businesses such as kiosks and salt production farms in Lower Shabelle.

Preventing waterborne disease and improving access to safe water

The ICRC provided support for a chlorination campaign carried out in all Somali Red Crescent clinics to stem the spread of acute waterborne disease. A million chlorine tablets were distributed to 17 clinics and emergency water filters to 39 clinics in order to ensure that water was safe.

The ICRC is maintaining its efforts to improve access to safe water by re-drilling bore holes and by upgrading hand-dug wells, rainwater catchments and other sources of water. It completed 11 projects in July and August providing water for more than 25,000 Somalis.

Over 100,000 people benefit from ICRC-supported health care

In July and August, the ICRC provided 1.2 tonnes of surgical and other medical supplies for Keysaney and Medina hospitals, the two referral hospitals for war casualties in Mogadishu. The supplies were used to treat more than 650 wounded patients, including more than 250 women and children.

The ICRC also provided three tonnes of wound-dressing materials and other supplies for the treatment of war-wounded patients for hospitals in the north of Somalia following clashes in Gaalkacyo. A further three tonnes of supplies were delivered to medical facilities on all sides of the front lines in Mogadishu, Kismayo and elsewhere.

The ICRC continues to provide support for 39 Somali Red Crescent health-care facilities in the southern and central parts of the country to ensure that the population has access to essential health care and to good-quality medicines. These facilities, which conducted more than 115,000 consultations in July and August, were also given equipment and their staff were provided with training.

In July and August, around 20,000 children were vaccinated against polio, measles, diphtheria and tetanus in these Red Crescent facilities.

Helping refugees and other displaced people maintain contact with their families

The ICRC helps family members separated by the conflict in Somalia stay in touch with each another. In July and August, through the network of Somali Red Crescent volunteers, the ICRC collected almost 1,500 and distributed nearly 3,400 Red Cross messages, containing brief family news.

Since the crisis began to worsen, hundreds of people have been crossing the border into Kenya every day to take refuge in the Dadaab camps. Together with the Kenya Red Cross Society, the ICRC gives newly arrived refugees the opportunity to contact their relatives left behind. Since mid-August, over 7,200 people, including almost 800 minors, have taken advantage of this service.

In coordination with the ICRC, the BBC Somali Service has broadcast the names of more than 1,100 people looking for their relatives in Somalia and abroad, and it has published almost 11,000 names on its website. As a result, 35 people found their relatives.

Promoting international humanitarian law

At a seminar for 40 Somali journalists held in Mogadishu at the end of July, the ICRC's activities in Somalia were presented, and the basic principles of international humanitarian law and their links to traditional Somali customs (biri ma gedo) were explained.

In mid-August, 10 traditional elders attended a seminar in Mogadishu on the history of the ICRC and the organization's activities in Somalia.

For further information, please contact:
Yves van Loo, ICRC Somalia, tel: +254 272 3963 or +254 736 084 015
Anna Schaaf, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 20 2723 963/4 or +254 722 51 27 28
Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 21 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17


Somalia. A child being weighed upon arrival at one of the therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent Society. 

Somalia. A child being weighed upon arrival at one of the therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent Society.

Somalia. A child being treated at one of the therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent Society.  

Somalia. A child being treated at one of the therapeutic feeding centres run by the Somali Red Crescent Society.