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Somalia, 20 October 2016: Children living in camps for those forced to flee their homes suffer from life threatening malnutrition

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Makundi
Mohamed Aden Haji Omar 11 months old being screened for malnutrition at a Health Centre at Hamar Jabjab district, south Mogadishu. His family fled from conflict and drought in Merka, 120 kilometres away.

By Athanas Makundi

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 20 October 2016 – Mohamed Aden Haji Omar does not stop crying as he is carefully weighed at a Health Centre at Hamar Jabjab district, south Mogadishu. He is severely malnourished and has medical complications. Health workers are deciding whether his condition is serious enough to admit him to the specialized hospital ward known as the Stabilization Centre where he will be closely observed and receive medical and nutritional treatment.

Mohamed’s family have been on the move – fleeing from conflict and drought in Merka, 120 kilometres away. Now they live in a makeshift shelter in a camp for the internally displaced in Somalia’s capital. Conditions are basic and children often become ill.

“My husband abandoned me with my four children, and with drought in my village I couldn’t feed these children,” says his mother Barni Aden Ibrahim.

She adds that a Community Health Worker who visited the camp screening children and educating mothers about malnutrition referred her to this outpatient centre where children are given a supply of nutritious peanut paste and receive health checks.

“We have seen malnutrition cases increase in the recent months,” says Meymum Abdullahi Gure, Nutrition Programme Officer with Save the Children which is implementing nutrition programme supported by UNICEF. “We receive between 15 to 20 cases every day. These include five to seven cases of severe acute malnutrition with complications, which are so serious that we cannot treat them here and we send them to the Stabilization Centre to be admitted,” she explains.

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Makundi
Somali mothers queue to receive their weekly supply of nutritious peanut paste - a ready to use therapeutic food that helps malnourished children to recover at Hamar Jabjab Outpatient Therapeutic Centre, Mogadishu.

“So far this year we have discharged 147 children from this outpatient programme, and we have 200 children active on the programme but the number increases every day,” she adds.

She explains this is because of families are moving from Baidoa, Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions due to the lack of food and conflict into camps for the internally displaced in Mogadishu. There are already 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, many of them living in basic shelters without adequate.

“When they are in the camps, the lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitation leads to diarrhoea and other illnesses which mean the children cannot retain the nutrients and suffer malnutrition,” she adds. “Poor breastfeeding practices, and inappropriate food for babies is also another reason for increased malnutrition.”

UNICEF and its partners are also trying to prevent malnutrition through the Infant and Young Child Feeding Programme in all the Outpatient and Stabilizations Centres. Children are not only treated but their mothers learn the importance of breastfeeding, proper nutrition, home hygiene and sanitation from trained community workers.

“We tell the mothers that giving this therapeutic food we provide to their malnourished children is not enough. In addition, observing basic hygiene rules goes a long way to avoid contracting diseases like diarrhoea that may lead to a relapse into malnutrition,” says Fatima Mohamed, a community health worker, promoting nutrition and hygiene practices in the IDP camps.

The network of Outpatient and Stabilization Centres have helped saved the lives of 50,000 Somali children who have recovered from severe acute malnutrition in 2016. This crucial work is supported by funding from the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and other donors.



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