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Listening to SUN country actors: A face-to-face interview with Dr Mohamed Abdi Farrah, Somalia SUN Focal Point

A mother and child at a clinic in Mogadishu, SomaliaBackground

Somalia has been affected by civil war since 1991 and suffers from recurrent droughts, characterising it as a complex political environment with extreme poverty, food insecurity and instability. Somalia’s malnutrition rates are consistently among the worst in the world, with currently 13.6 per cent wasting in children under five years of age, high levels of stunting (>26%), low levels of exclusive breastfeeding rates for infants under six months (5%) and widespread micronutrient deficiencies. Somalia has a well-established Nutrition Cluster, which since 2006 has grown to almost 100 active partners. This has been a forum for representing all actors, including UN and civil society organisations, in emergency nutrition concerns over many years. More recently, the Nutrition Cluster members have been able to engage with newly established SUN  activities in Somalia. Somalia joined the SUN Movement in 2014 and now has a national-level SUN Focal Point (SUN FP), Dr Farah, who is based in the Office of the Prime Minister. There is also a sub-national SUN FP based in Puntland and there are plans to expand to have more sub-national-level FPs in every state, including Somaliland. While the SUN Movement approach has been endorsed in Somalia, an official public launch is planned in 2016 which is seen as a way to bring people together and a chance for advocacy to further embed nutrition issues within government.

In January 2016 Tui Swinnen, the ENN Global Knowledge Management Coordinator, met with Dr Farrah at a Somalia Cluster meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. This presented an ideal opportunity to interview Dr Farrah to obtain his perspectives on scaling up nutrition in such a challenging and rapidly changing environment.

1. Can you tell me about the nutrition context in Somalia when government joined the SUN movement?

2. As the Somalia context is unique, do you think actors working to scale up nutrition in Somalia would benefit from learning exchanges with other countries in the Movement?

3. Since Somalia joined the SUN Movement in 2015, nutrition has become a priority in Somalia with buy-in from the highest levels of government. Can you tell me how this shift came about?

4. What are some of the ‘deep challenges’ that need to be overcome in Somalia?

5. You have mentioned gaps in nutrition research and data in the Somalia context. Are there any plans to fill these gaps?

6. What has been the Somalia experience of setting up a multi-stakeholder platform?

The SUN ‘blueprint’ must be adapted to meet the needs of individual countries and contexts. In Somalia this means adapting national structures to a context in which there are three separate governments operating in the three regions and half the network stakeholders (donor and UN) located outside the country (in Kenya). The need for adaptability and creative ways of setting up SUN structures cannot be overstated.

Special thanks go to Samson Desie, Somalia Nutrition Cluster Coordinator, for helping arrange this interview.

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Listening to SUN country actors: A face-to-face interview with Dr Mohamed Abdi Farrah, Somalia SUN Focal Point. Nutrition Exchange 6, May 2016. p31. www.ennonline.net/nex/6/sunsomalia

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