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Somalia, 7 April 2017: Families on the move in Somaliland ravaged by drought

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Price
A pile of dead goats and sheep festers in front of make shift houses being patrolled by a Somali police officer near the town of near the town of Burao, Somalia.

 
BURAO, Somaliland, 7 April 2017 – Somali pastoralists are used to moving in search of water and pasture for their animals – but the long drought which has parched the land left them without any options. Even so, after watching most of his 80 goats die, Keyse Farah Abdi decided his family’s only hope for survival was to walk.

A month ago they arrived at a desolate dust plain outside the fence of a new airstrip on the outskirts of the second largest city in Somaliland, Burao.

“We heard from people that grass and water would be here but we are surviving on scavenging and some generous people giving us water, rice, tea and sugar,” he said.

Normally the children, such as his six year old daughter Tirig and three year old Sauda, would help look after the animals and drink the milk. Now they mill around aimlessly, eating only boiled rice for dinner.
 

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Price
Tirig, who is six years old, poses for a photograph with her sister Saua outside their make shift home of Burao, Somalia. Their family has been forced to leave their home in search of water and food; Tirig has never been to school and used to look after the families smaller goats but now they are all dead.

 
The family lives in a makeshift shelter of sticks, plastic sheeting and material with three other families in the same compound ringed by thorny branches. As we spoke a large group of women and children appeared from similar shelters scattered across the dusty plain. One stepped forward to explain how 90 families had come from the same area.

”We won’t move again and there’s no point in getting more animals – they would just die,” said Keyse.

His relative Roda Mohamud sits quietly rocking her two year old niece Ayan who is pale and listless and hasn’t eaten properly for two weeks. Ayan’s mother died giving birth to her so her aunt is looking after the five children she left behind and five of her own. And while Roda seems unaware of any health facilities in the area, her neighbour, Sara Farah Mohamud, tells us she took both her children who were suffering from flu and diarrhoea to the UNICEF supported Mother and Child Health Centre about half an hour’s walk away.

The open area in the middle of the Health Centre was crowded when we visited with different groups waiting for immunizations, ante natal care and to see the doctor for illnesses and all services are free.

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Price
Waiting for treatment at the mother and child health centre near Burao, Somaliland where the number of malnourished children being treated has dramatically increased.

Deqa Mohamed Nimo had brought her only child with fever, Her livestock had all died from drought and she travelled the 70 kilometres from her home on trucks.

“My child had fever so I saw a doctor and now I’m going to the pharmacy to get medicine,” she said.

At the health centre, which is based in a camp for the internally displaced established after the 2011 famine, children are also screened for acute malnutrition with UNICEF supporting the treatment of children suffering from life threatening severe acute malnutrition and WFP treating those with moderate malnutrition.

Dr Hamud Mohamed, Programme Manager for the NGO Health Poverty Action which UNICEF supports to run this and other health centres, said that while the number of the children being treated for life threatening severe acute malnutrition was far higher than in 2016 and the number of those with moderate malnutrition had increased dramatically so it was crucial to ensure their condition did not worsen.

UNICEF is receiving funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to support the critically important work of running the health and nutrition centres. UNICEF is using DFID funds to buy enough cartons of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food to treat 50,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

In Somaliland UNICEF is supporting 95 centres which treat severely acutely malnourished children as outpatients, providing a supply of therapeutic peanut paste for them to take at home and also has 38 mobile nutrition teams which travel round hundreds of different sites to assess and treat children.

 

 
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