Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Thursday, 14 February 2008

Somalia is 'the forgotten crisis'

Displaced children in Somalia
The UN needs $6m to keep feeding programmes going

The lives of up to 15,000 children are at risk in Somalia unless emergency aid arrives in the next two weeks, the UN children's agency, Unicef, has warned.

"It is the forgotten crisis," Unicef's Christian Balslev-Olesen told the BBC, saying Somalia was the world's worst place for children.

Without extra funding, emergency feeding programmes could be closed down next month, he warned.

He said fighting had created "a time-bomb" of people living in camps.

Ethiopian troops intervened in Somalia just over a year ago, when they helped government forces oust Islamists from much of southern Somalia.

If you take all the indicators for children, it's the most difficult place on the globe
Christian Balslev-Olesen
Since then the capital, Mogadishu, has been the scene of battles with government and Ethiopian troops taking on insurgents.

In this time it is estimated that 60% Mogadishu's residents have fled their homes, many to camps around Afgooye just outside the capital.


"If we are not getting additional funding within the coming two weeks, we will have to close down a number of life-saving feeding activities in the central-south by the end of March," Mr Balslev-Olesen told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The UN body needs about $6m to keep 110 feeding programmes running, the Unicef's representative in Somalia said.

A further $3.1m was needed for water sanitation projects to contain outbreaks of diarrhoea and cholera.

"Life in Somalia for the IDPs [internally displaced people], but also the ordinary people, is extreme," he said.

"If you take all the indicators for children, it's the most difficult place on the globe."

He said it was also the world's most insecure place for humanitarian staff to work.

So far only 2,400 African Union peacekeepers have been sent to Somalia, of a planned 8,000-strong force.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.


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