Some 1.4 million children in drought-hit Somalia are projected to suffer acute malnutrition this year, 50 percent more than estimated in January, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday, May 2, according to Reuters.
The new figure includes more than 275,000 children potentially facing a life-threatening severe acute form of malnutrition, who are nine times more likely to die of cholera or measles, UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said.
"The combination is deadly for children," Mercado told a Geneva news briefing on return from the central city of Baidoa. "It can spread like fire in congested displacement camps."
UNICEF has treated 56,000 Somali children for the most severe form of malnutrition since the beginning of year, an increase of 88 percent over last year, she said. The known death rate among them was one percent, she added.
The agency had no figure for the overall number of children who have died so far of hunger and disease in Somalia, but Mercado noted that in the 2011 famine an estimated 258,000 people died over an 18-month period, including 133,000 young children.
Some 615,000 Somalis have fled their homes due to drought and failed crops since last November, joining 1 million previously internally displaced, U.N. spokesman Jens Laerke said.
The U.N. has received nearly 60 percent toward its humanitarian funding appeal of $720 million for Somalia this year, he said, adding: "We are still in a race against time."