UK and partners launch a programme to improve the lives of Somalia’s most vulnerable women and young children

By Government of United Kingdom

UK and partners launch a programme to improve the lives of Somalia’s most vulnerable women and young children

The British Embassy in Mogadishu launched the development phase of the Better Lives for Somali Women and Children programme with UNICEF, Mercy USA, Trocaire, Save the Children, Action Against Hunger and the Federal Government of Somalia. This innovative programme will improve the lives of Somalia’s most vulnerable and is the UK’s flagship health and nutrition partnership with the Federal Government of Somalia.

Having pledged £38m from October 2023 to September 2026, the UK continues to be a committed and unique partner to the Somali Government across a wide range of humanitarian and development activities. At the launch of the UK-Somalia Strategic Partnership in November 2023, health was identified as a top priority by UK Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell and President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Better Lives will deliver high-impact health and nutrition services like immunisation, maternal and newborn care, and treatment of malnutrition and common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia to vulnerable women and children, as well as improving the capacity of regional and district health authorities to effectively lead and coordinate service delivery. Better Lives will mean fewer women dying of complications related to pregnancy and birth and will reduce infant mortality rates caused by malnutrition and disease.

The launch event in Mogadishu on 29 April was attended by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Minister for Health H.E. Dr. Ali Haji Adan, the Director General for Health and other Somali Government representatives.

Speaking at the launch event in Mogadishu, British Ambassador to Somalia Mike Nithavrianakis said: ”Better Lives is our flagship and innovative health and nutrition programme, which will improve lives for Somalia’s most vulnerable women and children. We’re delighted to be working hand in hand with our partners UNICEF and the Federal Government of Somalia. Better Lives will mean fewer women dying of complications related to pregnancy and birth and fewer infants and babies dying as a result of malnutrition and disease. I can’t think of a worthier goal”.

UNICEF’s Representative Wafaa Saeed also welcomed the flagship programme: ”Somalia’s efforts to reduce maternal and child deaths is complicated by chronic conflict and climate change, which is causing population displacements and disease outbreaks. Through this programme, we will strengthen the capacity of the health system to provide lifesaving services while prioritising the most vulnerable. We will strive to ensure that quality support is provided to targeted individuals and that no mother and child is left behind”.

Better Lives will involve like-minded partners and donors supporting health in Somalia including the World Bank, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), Gavi and other bilateral donors in addition to the Federal Government. The UK has been a consistent supporter of health and nutrition initiatives in Somalia and is working with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s Government to support Somalia’s transition to Universal Health Coverage and the roll-out of the Government’s national health and nutrition policy framework. Better Lives will aim to ensure access to critical healthcare services across six regions and 15 districts of Somalia with the aim of reaching 4 million vulnerable Somalis by 2026.

The extension of the programme follows a short-term humanitarian phase which ran from April 2022 to September 2023 and provided vital insights for the design of the programme, including how to improve the quality of services delivered and how to strengthen response to emergencies. In the humanitarian phase of the programme, over 230,000 children under the age of five years were fully immunised and a further 123,000 were treated for severe malnutrition.

Over 200,000 women received professional antenatal care, while almost 100,000 women gave birth with the support of medical professionals at healthcare facilities. 12 medical facilities were also fitted with solar panels to help provide reliable power for important services including immunisation to children under five years. Working with the Somali Ministry of Health, almost one million Somalis received outpatient care, making a real difference to the health and well-being of some of the country’s most vulnerable communities.

Building on the success of the humanitarian phase, the development phase of the programme will institute sustainable and impactful healthcare improvements to benefit Somali women and children for years to come.