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Somalia, 17 February 2017: Little Munasar suffers as his family moves to escape the drought

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Nam
Fourteen-month-old Munasar who was severely malnourished with his teenage mother Sahra and grandmother Asha. They were pastoralists with goats until their animals died and they came to Beletweyne town.

 
By Surangani Abeyesekera and Hussein Sedow

BELETWEYENE, Hiraan region, 17 February 2017 – As our plane approached the gravel landing strip in Beletweyene, in central Somalia, I could see dried up river beds, shrivelled shrubs and parched land. And all too soon we saw the terrible effect the drought is having on the children here.

14-month-old Munasar could have been one of my own children waddling around the garden. But instead he was severely malnourished and lying in a UNICEF supported Stabilisation Centre in Beletweyne’s Main Hospital. He weighed just seven kilos when he was admitted for severe malnutrition with medical complications, rather than 10 kilos which is the normal weight. Munasar was referred to the Stabilisation Center by the Triage Section of the Beletweyne Hospital when he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition with medical complications. Children with severe acute malnutrition cannot take lifesaving therapeutic food as they are at a very high risk of death without timely treatment. The medical complications in the case of Munasar have to be treated and brought under control before Munasar gets an appetite and is able to eat again.

His mother, 18-year-old Sahra Abdi Mohamed came to Beletwetyne just two months ago with him, his three-year-old brother Mohamed-Amin, and his grandmother Asha Ibrahim. They family used to be pastoralists herding goats in a remote rural area of Beletweyne district until all their animals died.

“Eight months ago, the water and pasture started diminishing in our area. Before that we had large grazing land between Mahas and Beletweyne,” said Sahra “My husband went to Saudi Arabia to find work through Bosaso and Yemen but we have heard nothing from him.”

Sahra’s mother Asha said they decided to move to the town where she started a tea kiosk to provide for her daughter and the two boys. But they could only afford one meal a day.

“That is why our Munasar is malnourished and we had to bring him to this stabilisation centre,” said Asha.

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Sedow
Munasar who was admitted to the UNICEF-supported Stabilization Centre in Beletweyne suffering from severe malnutrition and his mother.

The UNICEF assisted Stabilisation Centre is run by WARDI, a local NGO in Beletweyne with the support of UNICEF’s own resources and funds from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

“After 10 days of proper feeding and treatment little Munasar is almost fully recovered from the severe acute malnutrition,” said Ms. Roda Hassan Elmi, the supervisor of the Centre which is run by WARDI, a local NGO. “He will be discharged as his body weight is now 7.7Kg.”

Munasar has now been referred to the UNICEF supported Outpatients Therapeutic (feeding) Programme in the main Beletweyne hospital and Munasar will receive a course of ready to use therapeutic food which will help him continue gaining weight. Sahra also received counselling on infant and young child feeding.

The story of little Munasar is just one among thousands of similar stories. Many are also on the move because of the drought and this is leading to disease and malnutrition, particularly among the children. The current situation threatens survival and well-being of children, and without urgent assistance, Somalia faces the risk of a major nutrition and food-security crisis in the months ahead. Recent surveys indicate that the prevalence of malnutrition has increased to 365,000 children acutely malnourished. The figure includes 71,000 children who like Munsar are severely malnourished.

 

 
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