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Malnutrition critical in Somali region

Map of Somali region of Ethiopia.

Malnutrition rates in the Somali region of Ethiopia have reached critical levels, according to a recent assessment by the regional health bureau.

Conducted in seven woredas (districts) between April and May, the assessment found global acute malnutrition rates of 14.5 to 21.9 percent. A rate exceeding 15 percent reflects an emergency situation, it noted.

The highest rate of 21.9 percent was recorded in Degehabour woreda of Degehabour zone. Five other woredas in the zone also exceeded the emergency threshold.

The assessment noted that acute water shortages, poor access to safe water, low immunisation coverage, high childhood morbidity and dependence on relief food had aggravated the situation. Household coping mechanisms had also weakened after years of drought.

The findings indicated that under-five mortality rates are high in Degehabur and Bokh woredas.

"The situation is critical in Bokh and Degehabur woredas and serious in Kelafo, Hamero, Bare and Ayisha woredas, while Filtu was deemed 'poor', on the borderline of 'serious'," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its weekly humanitarian bulletin. 

The health bureau forecast that the poor performance of the Gu rains in 2009 would lead to a further deterioration in food security as well as nutritional and health conditions in the region. The Gu rains fall in the long wet season that normally extends from March to May.

"In pastoral areas, the bad performance of the Gu season means that the July-September dry season is likely to be exceptionally harsh," the Famine Early Warning System Network said on 24 June.

The bureau recommended the immediate resumption of full relief food rations for targeted populations in the region. It also proposed strengthening supplementary feeding programmes.


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