Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa. The country has been affected by
a civil war since 1991 and the situation has been further aggravated by prolonged
droughts. The combination of conflict and natural disasters has eroded livelihoods,
caused structural food insecurity, population displacements and extreme poverty.
Moreover, as a consequence of civil insecurity and of the absence of a central
government, the Somali health and educational systems have ceased functioning.
The country belongs to the group of Low-Income Countries Under Stress (LICUS).
Poverty and food insecurity affect vulnerable groups such as nomadic pastoral
communities and internally displaced people particularly, as well as the rural
population as a whole. Agriculture and livestock rearing are the most important
sectors of the economy, but the country is still heavily dependant on external
aid and remittances from Somali living abroad. The population is predominantly
rural and very young, with a high crude birth rate and a very high dependency
The health and educational sectors now depend on international organizations
and NGOs. Problems of insecurity limit the provision of services. As a consequence,
the level of indicators of human development in Somalia is very low. Infant,
child and maternal mortality rates are extremely high. Incidence of infectious
diseases is very high, and immunization rates are low. Life expectancy is estimated
at 47 years.
The food supply is based on milk and cereals. The dietary energy supply is
insufficient to meet the population's energy requirements. The country depends
heavily on imports of cereals, vegetable oil and sweeteners. The supply of
fruit and vegetables, as well as that of meat, is low. Agro pastoral communities
have a slightly more diversified diet than pastoral communities.
Although breastfeeding is common, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding is low
and bottle-feeding is widespread. The limited data available also indicate
a short duration of breastfeeding.
The security situation precludes conducting large-scale nutrition surveys.
Many district surveys are carried out but an overall assessment of the situation
at country level is impossible and trends cannot be estimated. Most surveys
show that the level of wasting in underfives is extremely high but important
variations between districts and over time are also observed. Central/South
Somalia is the region most affected by wasting. Data on stunting are limited.
Iodine deficiency is probably a major public health problem as access to iodized
salt is extremely limited, but data are lacking to assess the situation. Limited
data show that vitamin A deficiency is highly prevalent. The coverage by supplementation
of preschool children and mothers with vitamin A is still insufficient. Small-scale
studies also show that the prevalence of anemia is very high among preschool