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Somalia, 28 February 2018: Mobile relief for children with severe acute malnutrition

EU humanitarian aid helps UNICEF reach vulnerable children with lifesaving nutrition services

Ali takes a sachet of ready-to-use therapeutic food that’s prescribed to him to treat severe acute malnutrition he has been suffering.

28 February 2018 – Everyday, Maryan and her husband Sabriye wake up early to get themselves ready for work. They live with their five children in a camp for the displaced persons in the Afgooye Corridor outside Mogadishu, the capital. Trekking on foot, they then head toward Afgooye town, 18 kilometres away. Once there, Maryan knocks on people’s doors, asking whether any of them would like her to wash their clothes. Sabriye goes to the farming areas, trying to get work from farmers. At the end of the day, they trek the same way back – sometimes with money, sometimes without.

Lately, their youngest son, Ali, 2, has been ill. Mum would like to take her son for treatment in town but she can’t afford the bus fare. “I can’t walk to Afgooye with a sick child,” she says. “And I am also worried about my other children – we haven’t had enough food for days, what if they also get sick? I need to work. But how can I work and leave Ali behind?”

While Maryan is tormented by agony, Ali’s case was heard by the Somali Young Doctors Association (SOYDA), a UNICEF partner that provides health and nutrition services to vulnerable families. The NGO operates around Mogadishu, in some of the most densely populated areas by displaced persons, and in place where security is of concern thus off-limit for international aid agencies. Immediately, a mobile team was sent to her way.

“The team came to our house and looked at Ali. They found him suffering from malnutrition,” says Maryan. “They brought Ali to their centre in KM 13, and he was given therapeutic food and also medical treatment.”

SOYDA came at the right time. Malnutrition is nothing new in Maryan’s camp. Many children she knows have had it. But not everyone is as lucky as Ali – some wasted away, unable to survive until the day help reached them or they reached help.

“I have no words to explain my appreciation to the services I am getting from the doctors and nurses at SOYDA,” exclaims Maryan. She is at its centre today for a follow-up assessment on Ali. She is pleased to know that Ali is doing well, and his medical complications have been brought under control. After talking to the doctors, she walks over to another section to join other mothers in learning about optimal infant and young child feeding practices. Knowing her situation, SOYDA sent a car to bring her and Ali here. Once mum and son are done, a car will take them back, but not before they get another refill of the therapeutic food that Ali can take at home.

Across the country, UNICEF works with partners like SOYDA to provide vital services to children and mothers not only in nutrition, but also health, WASH, education and child protection. Because of the prolonged drought, which still shows no sign of letting up, more than 300 new outpatient nutrition centres like the one run by SOYDA were set up in 2017, providing services to children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The effort was made possible thanks to the generous contribution from donors, including €7.5 million euro from EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

By the end of the year, some 270,000 children with life threatening severe acute malnutrition were reached with the treatment like Ali is receiving. Almost all of them recovered.

The crisis, however, is not yet over. In 2018, there are still 5.4 million people in need of assistance, 2.8 million of them children. Together with partners and donors, UNICEF will continue to respond to the most immediate needs of children and women caught in the emergency. Working with other UN agencies, UNICEF is also looking into ways to support mothers and fathers like Maryan and Sabriye so that they can better support themselves and their children.



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