Somali mother walks for three days to find treatment for her severely malnourished toddler
By Athanas Makundi, Baidoa South Central Somalia
7 July 2014 - When 18-month -old son Muhudin Sharrif began losing weight, vomiting and suffering from diahorrea, his mother Halimo Madey tried the only treatment available in the remote area of south central Somalia where they live. She took him to a traditional healer.
“I was desperate,” says Halimo. “When we fall sick, we usually go to see the healers.”
But the little boy’s condition continued to deteriorate and Halimo was advised by a friend to take him to the larger town of Baidoa to seek medical treatment. She left her other children under the care of her husband and set off for Baidoa on foot.
“I walked for three days with my son and we slept in the bushes and open fields,” says Halimo. “It was very scary, but I managed to reach the main road, where I got public transport to Baidoa town.”
Finally, she arrived at the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme Centre operated through UNICEF support by Deegroor Medical Organization on the outskirts of Baidoa town. The center provides life-saving nutrition treatment and care, as well as basic health services. At the time, Muhuddin was vomiting and he had lost all appetite. He was immediately referred to Baidoa Regional Hospital, where he was admitted at the UNICEF-supported Stabilization Centre for children who are suffering severe acute malnutrition along with medical complications. Here he was given treatment for his vomiting and diahorrea along with therapeutic milk and peanut based paste to build up his weight and treat his severe malnutrition.
Muhudin weighed just 5.6 kilogrammes at admission to the hospital – only two thirds of the weight of a normal healthy toddler of his age.
“When Muhudin was brought here he was severely and acute malnourished. We put him on medication and encouraged the mother to breastfeed,” said Jamaalo Buule Hussein, the Stabilization Centre Supervisor. “Now, he is stable and his vomiting and diahorrea have stopped.”
At present there are 50,000 children like Muhudin Sharrif suffering from severe acute malnutrition in urgent need of therapeutic feeding, the vast majority in south and central Somalia. It is anticipated that 200,000 children under five will be severely malnourished over the course of this year, again mostly in the Central South Zone. Given that severely malnourished children are nine times more likely to die than a non-malnourished child, identification and treatment of severely malnourished children is a high priority for UNICEF Somalia.
If donor funding is not stepped up UNICEF expects the number of severely malnourished children who die as a result of lack of access to life-saving therapeutic services and other preventative nutrition interventions to increase significantly.