|© UNICEF Somalia/2007|
|Mothers and children wait to be seen at the Mother-Child Medical Clinic in Baidoa, Somalia.|
By Christine Kapka
BAIDOA, Somalia, 2 October 2007 – It didn’t take long for Hawa to notice that her sick, one-year-old son Saeed was not responding to traditional medicines. Her child was wasting away, his feet so bloated that it appeared they might burst. Hawa had to move quickly – her son was dying from severe malnutrition.
Desperate for help, Hawa took her son to the Deegroor Mother-Child Medical Clinic in Baidoa. This UNICEF-supported health clinic was was designed to fill a void in the area and is the only medical clinic in Baidoa that caters specifically to women and children, free of charge.
“I carried my baby here from very far away,” said Hawa. “In my community we have heard many good things about this centre.”
The small but dedicated staff of 18 staff at Deegroor, all of them volunteers, has allowed the clinic to sustain itself since 1997. The work done at the clinic has had a significant impact on the lives of many people in the area and is a testament to the dedication of this Somalian community.
“I do not know where we would have gone or what we would have done without this centre,” said Hawa.
Last month, UNICEF warned that 83,000 children in Central and Southern Somalia are suffering from malnutrition – and that 13,500 of them are severely undernourished and at risk of dying.
“Saeed needs much more than just food at this stage of his illness. He needs 24-hour monitoring and specialized food and milk supplements,” said UNICEF Nutrition Officer for Central-South Somalia Regine Kopplow.
Ms. Kopplow added that UNICEF has plans underway to open a desperately needed therapeutic feeding centre for severely undernourished children in the area. Until that time, children are being cared for at Deegroor.
Preventive care is key
The Deegroor clinic is home to a diverse set of programmes and offers a new approach to healthy living through nutrition and preventive care.
At the clinic, Saeed was placed on a supplementary feeing programme and given a thorough check-up and immunizations. His mother was also received care as well as training on better infant feeding practices to improve Saeed’s chances of survival.
“Without this programme, little Saeed would be dead,” said Deegroor Chairperson Maryan Hagi. “But we’re not just alleviating suffering, we’re also providing preventive care to these women, as well as distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria. This is making a very big difference in the amount of illnesses and deaths in the area.”
By educating mothers on proper hygiene awareness and nutrition, the Deegroor clinic is hoping to prevent repeat cases of severe malnutrition. Already, the clinic has gotten many families through a difficult time.