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Somalia, 23 April 2017: Drought leaves a father too weak to take his malnourished child to get treatment

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Mbakaya
Women displaced from their home areas due to the drought put up new shelters at Moqor Manyow camp for the displaced home to over 5,000 people on the outskirts of Baidoa. In March alone 70,000 displaced people came to Baidoa.

 
By Jayne Mbakaya

MOQOR MANYOW IDP CAMP, Baidoa, southern Somalia, 23 April 2017 – I met two year old Hassan Osman Ali during the visit of a big UN delegation to a fast growing settlement for those displaced by the drought near Baidoa town in southern Somalia. I was surprised that Hassan’s family hadn’t come out to join in the excitement about the visitors, so I peeped into their makeshift shelter.

Inside Hassan was being held by his mother, Mumina, like a small baby. He was clearly malnourished and unable to walk. Dressed in a small T-shirt and without pants, I could see the muscles of his legs looked weak and dangled as his mother held him tightly against her. Two days earlier, a local NGO, DMO conducted a mass screening for the 800 households in the settlement and found Hassan to be severely malnourished. They advised his mother to take him to the nearest nutrition centre for treatment, over three kilometres away.

Despite her obvious concern about her son’s health, Mumina hadn’t taken Hassanm saying she didn’t want to leave her four children with anyone else – not even her husband who was in a nearby shelter.

As she gently pulled part of her dress to cover son’s weak limbs, I wondered why her husband could not take care of his children so that the wife could take Hassan for outpatient care that could save his life. UNICEF supports 11 Outpatient Programmes in Baidoa District providing children with a supply of therapeutic peanut-based paste to treat life threatening malnutrition as well as vaccinations, Vitamin A supplementation and deworming, while educating mothers about good feeding practises. In the first three months of the year UNICEF treated 2210 children suffering from life threatening severe acute malnutrition in Baidoa with support from the UK’s Department for International Development.

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Mbakaya
Mother Mumina, holds her severely malnourished son Hassan inside their makeshift shelter in a camp for the internally displaced on the outskirts of Baidoa. Her husband is too sick to look after the other children while she takes Hassan for treatment.

I decided to find out more from Mumina’s husband, Osman Ali who was in a nearby shelter. We found him looking thin and sick, lying on the floor which was barely covered by a piece of cardboard and a thin piece of cloth. When we asked him about his son Osman – the father asked weakly if his son really needed to be taken for treatment immediately. The sound of his voice and expression of pain immediately explained the father’s inability to look after his children – even for a few hours while his son was taken to the centre, as he was also sick and needed treatment himself.

The family, who came from a village around 50 kilometres south of Baidoa, are among the thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) arriving in Baidoa in such a weak state they are unable to take advantage of medical and other assistance provided in the town’s clinics and hospitals. Therefore UNICEF is bringing in six mobile teams which provide emergency health care services to nearly 80,000 IDPs in Baidoa. They will rotate between the IDP settlements providing vaccinations and treatment to complement the ongoing nutrition services. Currently, in Baidoa district, UNICEF supports 11 Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes of which seven are outreach mobile services, three are fixed facilities and one stabilization centre for severely malnourished children with additional complications.

Mumina and her children are the invisible IDP those who are hidden in plain sight and are extremely vulnerable. The mobile teams will ensure that they do not miss out on vital lifesaving services.

 

 
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