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Somalia, 10 April 2017: Mobile health workers work flat out to treat those displaced by drought

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
A woman and her child who have been forced to move because of drought walk towards a mobile medical unit being run in their settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia.

 
By Susannah Price UNICEF Somalia Chief of Communication

AINABO, Somaliland, 10 April 2017 – A large excited crowd of women and children crowding around a small table topped with an umbrella for shade, in the middle of Diblye camp for the displaced. The dust makes it hard to see what the excitement is about but gradually the white coats of the staff become visible.

Every Thursday this small mobile health and nutrition team from the Somaliland Red Crescent Society comes to the camp. This remarkable team’s life saving work is supported by UNICEF with funds from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). As the dust rises and the crowd presses closer, the team patiently measure children’s height, their arm circumference, dispense therapeutic peanut paste to the severely malnourished and refer the parents of the most serious cases to inpatient care, vaccinate bawling babies and children and give them vitamin drops. Last year the team treated from 1 to 200 people a month but this year they are far busier.
 

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
Faduma Yusuf cradles her son Zakariah who has been sick for a few months with vomiting and diarrhoea in the Nutrition Stabilisation unit that is being supported by UNICEF in Burao, Somalia. They had travelled to Burao from Ethiopia because of the drought and had lost all of their animals; the mother has ten other children to look after.

 
Over the past five months, over thousand people have set up makeshift shelters just behind the small dusty town of Ainabo in central Somaliland. Khado Ahmed Jama, who has been working for the Somaliland Red Crescent for six years, takes a quick break to tell us she has never seen such high numbers of children suffering from life threatening severe acute malnutrition, along with diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles.

Inside one of the basic shelters – topped with orange plastic – we find Amina Dahir with three of her five children and her sister. They came here two months ago after walking for two days from the mountains. Their meagre herd of two camels and two goats had died and their belongings amount to a few pans and clothes.

“We have nothing but there is nothing where we came from,” she said.

The severely malnourished children from the camp with other illnesses or who are too weak to eat are referred to Burao Hospital Nutrition Stabilization Centre supported by UNICEF and funded by various donors including DFID an hour and a half drive away. In February they admitted 43 children – over three times as many as during the same time last year. Here four year old Ahmed Abdi Ismael lies on the ground motionless apart from his chest moving with short breaths. His mother 23 year old Hodan Mohamed brought him in a week ago from their home in the mountains with diarrhoea and a cough.”
 

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
Amina Dahir, her daughter and sister inside their make shift home with their empty cooking posts at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia

 
“We had 200 goats and sheep and now only 12 are left. Ahmed was never ill but after becoming malnourished he contracted different illnesses – he couldn’t eat solid food so we gave him black tea and some plain rice,” she said.

Faduma Yusuf ‘s two year old Zakariah had been vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea for months and there was little help in their home region in Ethiopia. Faduma, who originally came from Burao travelled 24 hours in a truck to bring him for treatment. truck. “He used to run and play like a normal boy, but now look at him. I think we will stay in Burao there is nothing back home and my husband will look after the other children,” she said.

The story is all too common and the number of children suffering from life threatening malnutrition is on the rise and during the first three months of this year UNICEF treated over 45,000 children. While lack of food is clearly one cause of malnutrition there are other key factors which include disease often caused by lack of safe water. In Somaliland UNICEF is taking an integrated approach on nutrition, safe water, sanitation, hygiene and disease prevention while working with UN agencies and NGOs.

 

 
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