Photo: Khadija Farah for Action Against Hunger, Somalia

One in Five Displaced Children in Somalia is Malnourished, New Data Shows

Severe Nutrition Emergency Persists Despite End of Drought, Action Against Hunger Warns

(NEW YORK, MOGADISHU) July 5, 2018 ─ The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger warns that one in five young displaced children living in settlements in Somalia is suffering from acute malnutrition. Recent rains and a surge in humanitarian assistance have improved food security in areas hardest hit by crippling drought and the threat of famine. Despite that, new evidence shows that the prevalence of acute malnutrition among vulnerable displaced children exceeds the internationally recognized emergency threshold in many areas.

“We are encouraged by recent reports that food security is getting better,” said East Africa Regional Director for Action Against Hunger, Hajir Maalim, “However, true recovery will take years, and our data shows that Somalia is still facing a severe nutrition emergency. We are deeply concerned that 20 percent of displaced children under five are suffering from malnutrition in areas across the country, without access to health services.”

Rigorous assessments conducted by Action Against Hunger and Save the Children in 10 districts[1] of Somalia reveal that displaced children living in camps are the worst affected, particularly in Mataban, Dollow, Garowe, Galkayo and Mogadishu. Prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition in all the settlement camps for displaced people surveyed by the two humanitarian agencies exceeds the ‘emergency’ threshold of 15 percent. The prevalence of malnutrition in the city of Mataban in Hiraan region, which was recently devastated by floods, was 20.5 percent, indicating a critical emergency, and was the highest among all 10 districts.

Malnourished children are particularly vulnerable to preventable diseases. The new data indicates that deaths among children have increased in settlements for displaced people in Mogadishu and Mataban.  Half of child deaths were caused by malaria in Mataban, and in Mogadishu, respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia remain the leading cause of death among young children. 

Without sustained, adequate funding for humanitarian assistance, progress in reducing malnutrition in areas where famine was narrowly averted last year could be at risk. For example, the new data found that:

  • Prevalence of acute malnutrition in Beletweyne, in the Hiraan region, of South Central Somalia, is 15.9 percent, signalling a nutrition emergency. Half a million people in the region were affected[1] by the recent floods, which destroyed latrines, contaminated water supplies and contributed to a cholera outbreak, putting children’s lives in further danger. Ongoing heavy rains in the area are increasing the risk of waterborne disease among vulnerable displaced people.
  • Acute malnutrition has recently spiked from 6.8 per cent to 13.7 per cent in Burao, in the Togdheer region of northwest Somalia, where the threat of famine was successfully averted last year after a massive humanitarian response.

Across Somalia, an estimated 2.6 million have been uprooted from their homes by climate shocks and conflict. (2) Severe, extended drought devastated crops, killed livestock, and destroyed livelihoods, forcing one million people in 2017 to abandon their homes in search of food and water. In 2018, an average of 2,777 people have been displaced every day.

“Somalia has experienced better rainfall that what was predicted for this season, but people are still caught in a deadly cycle of climate shocks, conflict and hunger,” said Dr. Patrick Mweki, Country Director for Action Against Hunger’s operations in Somalia. “In 10 districts of Somalia, 90,000 children are malnourished and 45,000 children are severely malnourished and at risk of death. They need treatment today. We call on the international community to release immediate funding to scale up nutrition programs to save lives and alleviate suffering.

Press contact:
Elizabeth Wright, +1.917.803.1139,

Notes to Editors:

Action Against Hunger and Save the Children conducted rigorous, comprehensive nutrition assessments, known as SMART surveys, to quantify the prevalence of acute malnutrition among populations in 10 districts of Somalia and Somaliland in March 2018. Data from these nutrition assessments across the 10 districts indicated prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition among targeted populations at between 9.9 and 20.5 percent. The internationally recognized emergency threshold for prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition is 15 percent, which signals an urgent need for immediate intervention.

Data collected and validated from the SMART assessments indicated that 90,000 children between six months and five years of age across the 10 districts are suffering from acute malnutrition, and 45,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and in immediate need of lifesaving treatment.


Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.