File photo shows camps for displaced people in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia. (Xinhua/Faisal Isse)
MOGADISHU, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Humanitarian agencies said Monday they are scaling up assistance and protection to avert famine unfolding in Somalia, a relief official said.
Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Peter de Clercq said accelerated scale-up of assistance is required to avoid a dramatic rise in the number of malnourished children and a spike in mortality similar to that seen in April and May 2011, several months before the last famine was declared in July 2011.
"The drought situation is deteriorating rapidly. We are at a critical phase and we need to act fast and efficiently to avoid the worst. It is critical that everyone, including the international community, Somalis in-country and in the Diaspora, lines up behind the Somali leadership to help prevent another famine," Clercq said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.
According to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (OCHA) out of 12.3 million Somalis, over 6.2 million are now in need of humanitarian assistance, up from 5 million in September 2016.
Of these, nearly 3 million need urgent life-saving assistance, a drastic increase from 1.1 million six months ago with children being among the most vulnerable and bear the brunt of the drought.
"Humanitarians are further scaling up the response, but we need all hands on deck and strong partnerships," said Clercq.
He said humanitarian donors have moved quickly to generously provide additional funding and allow NGOs and UN agencies to step up assistance.
"It is expected that 944,000 children will be acutely malnourished this year. As many as 133,000 school going children are at immediate risk of dropping out of school," the statement said.
The humanitarian partners have issued an Operational Plan for Famine Prevention to immediately scale up humanitarian response to save lives and protect livelihoods.
The plan reflects a significant shift from the drought response, which has been ongoing since late 2015, to scaled-up famine prevention.
Humanitarians in Somalia are now seeking 825 million U.S. dollars to reach the most vulnerable with life-saving assistance until June, as drought conditions continue to worsen. Malnutrition and drought-related disease outbreaks and distress migration are already on the rise.
According to OCHA, the humanitarian partners intend to treat 200,000 severely malnourished children by June.
Food security partners also plan to reach 5.5 million people with life-saving emergency food assistance, while nutrition partners will target 2.2 million people, and water and sanitation will be boosted to reach an estimated 4.5 million.