GENEVA (Reuters) - Up to 200,000 children under the age of five could die from severe malnutrition in Somalia by the end of the year unless the United Nations receives emergency funds to stave off mass hunger, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.
Only $15 million has been received in the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) $150 million appeal to donor states to provide vital health services to more than 3 million women and children in the Horn of Africa nation this year, the agency said.
“If funding is not received immediately, UNICEF will have to suspend essential life-saving health services within one month,” said spokesman Christophe Boulierac.
“Somalia has 200,000 children under the age of five at risk of death (by) the end of the year 2014 from severe malnutrition if they do not receive life saving therapeutic assistance,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.
Some 50,000 Somali children under five currently suffer from acute severe malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
Somalia’s government is struggling to impose any sense of order, more than two decades after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre tipped the country into chaos.
UNICEF has been providing 70 percent of health services including medicines, vaccinations, staff salaries and fuel to run hospital generators, especially in central and southern Somalia, Boulierac said.
Western nations fear the country could sink back into chaos and provide a launch pad for Islamist militancy.
The capital Mogadishu has been hit by a series of suicide bomb attacks in the past few months, claimed by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, who have waged a sustained guerrilla campaign even after being pushed out of the city in mid-2011.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Pravin Char