Sat, 02 Jul 2022

MOGADISHU, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Somalia's hospitals are being plagued by a surge of severely malnourished children as the country accelerates towards famine, a global charity warned on Thursday.

Save the Children said the treatment of malnourished children on mattresses outside overflowing hospitals clearly shows that Somalia is hurtling towards a famine that could kill hundreds of thousands.

"Famine is bearing down on Somalia and clinics for malnourished children are close to breaking point. Children are dying now and we are in a race to stop that from happening," Save the Children's Country Director for Somalia, Mohamud Mohamed Hassan said in a statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

With beds and wards full, said the charity, doctors are being forced to care for children in tents, meeting rooms, and even on mattresses outside as drought in East Africa and war in Ukraine drive up food prices, making staples unaffordable for many.

Save the Children said its facility in Baidoa, southern Somalia, in May admitted a record 324 children, nearly three times higher than in the same period last year.

The charity said the figure for June has already surpassed that, with a week to go before the end of the month.

It said the number of children dying at the center is also increasing as more and more arrive too racked with malnutrition and other diseases to be saved. Eight children died there during May alone.

Hassan said the response in Somalia is hugely underfunded, noting that the G7 needs to make tackling hunger and malnutrition in Somalia and across East Africa a priority.

"The world is sleepwalking towards another catastrophic famine of the sort we promised would never happen again. It's time to wake up," he said.

The UN has appealed for 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to tackle this urgent and deadly crisis but has received just 400 million dollars and aid agencies are urging G7 leaders, who meet next week, to intervene and save lives.

According to Save the Children, hunger in Somalia is being fanned by a perfect storm of factors unlike anything seen in a generation.

It said the country is on the front line of climate change and reeling from the ripple effects of war in Ukraine, thousands of miles away.

The number of people in catastrophic, famine-like conditions is projected to increase more than five-fold, from 38,000 in May to 213,000 in September unless the world wakes up to the scale of the unfolding crisis.

According to the charity, some 386,000 children face severe malnutrition, which is life-threatening without treatment.

"People are being overwhelmed by a deadly mix of factors that go far beyond what we saw in 2011 when 250,000 people died. Families in Somalia are at the sharp end of vast global shockwaves. Resilient communities are being overwhelmed," Hassan said.

Four consecutive failed rains have caused the country's worst drought for 40 years and left millions on the brink of the first famine anywhere in the world for five years.

Pastures, crops, and livestock across the country have been devastated as meteorologists warn of a significant risk of record fifth failed rains.

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