Monday, August 22, 2011

Help the children in Somalia


  Somalia one of the harshest places on the planet, an extreme environment that presents huge challenges to its people just in terms of simple survival. The combination of  a hostile, predominantly arid environment, difficult terrain with settlements scattered over vast distances, the legacy of a nomadic way of life and a civil conflict that has shattered social structures and exacerbated poverty add up to mean that a Somali child’s chances of surviving to adulthood are among the lowest of children anywhere in the world. Add to this the fact that the odds of the child’s mother dying during pregnancy or in childbirth are also extremely high. These high death rates stem from the interaction of a number of causes set within a complex  socio-political context , but are largely attributable to  disease, dehydration, malnutrition, lack of safe water, and poor sanitation.
Diarrhoeal disease-related dehydration, respiratory infections and malaria are the main killers of infants and young children, together accounting for more than half of all child deaths. Cholera is endemic in Somalia, with the threat of outbreaks recurring annually during the “season” from December to May, when in many crowded communities  the pre-conditions are set as a result of critical  water shortage.The major underlying causes of diarrhoea are the lack of access to safe water, and poor food and domestic hygiene.
Malnutrition is a chronic problem in all areas, and becomes acute when areas are struck by drought or flood, or where localized conflict flares up, scattering populations. A persistent shortage of food  (mainly due to successive droughts and conflicts), low quality diet, poor feeding practices and inadequate home management practices contribute to  many children being inadequately nourished.

© UNICEF Somalia/02-09-Taylor
One of the greatest hinderances to girls' enrolment is that traditionally they assist their mothers in bearing the burden of domestic labour and are often sent to work to generate income for the family.
Neonatal tetanus and other birth-related problems are a further cause of many infant deaths, while measles and its complications result in widespread illness. Immunization coverage is not yet sufficient to prevent measles outbreaks. Susceptibility to measles is compounded by poor nutrition and transmission is rapid where living conditions are crowded, resulting in a high death rate.

Though data are lacking, Somalia is among countries with the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the world. Overcrowded conditions in camps where many displaced people are living , general lack of treatment facilities, poor quality drugs and malnutrition keep tuberculosis as one of the country’s main killer diseases.
Inadequate water and sanitation provision cost lives
Lack of access to safe water is a striking feature in almost all parts of  Somalia. Probably less than 1 in every 3 households (29 per cent of the population) uses an improved drinking water source. A result of erratic rainfall patterns which are responsible for both droughts and floods, this climatic causation has been compounded by the destruction and looting of water supply installations during the civil war, by depredation during continuing conflicts, and through the general lack of maintenance of  existing infrastructure.
Only 37 per cent of the population of Somalia have access to adequate sanitation. Poor hygiene and environmental sanitation are major causes of diseases such as cholera among children and women. The impact of poor environmental sanitation is particularly felt in the cities, towns, large villages, and other places where people are living in close proximity to each other with waste disposal adjacent to dwellings. Lack of garbage collection facilities is another factor affecting the urban environment and polluting water sources, along with the proliferation of plastic refuse bags.
Some dynamic progress has however been made in the field of health. Somalia has stepped up its polio eradication drive as part of the global polio eradication effort. No cases of the wild polio virus have been reported since 25 March 2007.

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