GENEVA - The United Nation's children's agency said Tuesday that 200,000 children may die of starvation this year in war-ravaged Somalia if it does not raise enough funds to provide vital aid.
"If funding is not received immediately, UNICEF will have to suspend essential life-saving health services within one month," spokesman Christophe Boulierac said.
UNICEF, which has been providing 70 percent of all health services in Somalia, has so far received just 10 percent of the $150 million it needs for its activities in the country this year, he said.
The lack of funding is dramatic, amid warnings that the troubled country, which was hit by an extreme famine less than three years ago, could be sliding back into a food crisis.
Some 50,000 children under the age of five are already suffering from severe malnourishment and UNICEF warned that could balloon to 200,000 without aid from the UN agency.
Somalia was the hardest hit by extreme drought in 2011 that affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa, with famine zones declared in large parts of the war-ravaged south.
On top of the country's food security problems, Somalia is also grappling with unending unrest. Here, Somali soldiers stand at the site of a car bomb this month. PHOTO/AFP
Some 250,000 people, around half of them young children, died in Somalia during that famine, according to the UN, which has warned that poor rains and conflict could be paving the way for a new food emergency.
"Today we have an early warning, with the ingredients of a perfect storm for a humanitarian crisis," Andrew Lanyon, head of the Somalia Resilience Programme, a coalition of aid agencies, said earlier this month.
Life-saving health care services, such as treatment for diarrhoea or pneumonia and antibiotics, currently given to 620,000 Somali children would also be suspended without more funds, Boulierac said.
Around 280,000 pregnant women would also lose access to antenatal check-ups, Boulierac told reporters in Geneva.
The UN's World Food Programme, which in April distributed food to 664,495 people in Somalia, has also warned it has been forced to lay of staff and reduce aid because of a shortfall in funds.
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