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Centre offers help for chronic malnutrition in Somalia

UNICEF Image: chronic malnutrition, Somalia
© UNICEF Somalia/2008/ King’ori
After a month’s treatment at a therapeutic nutrition centre supported by UNICEF in partnership with INTERSOS, an Italian NGO, Mohammed, 4, is no longer suffering from severe malnutrition.

By Misbah Sheikh

JOWHAR, Somalia, 6 March 2008 – Following heavy fighting in Mogadishu, Mumino Hussein Nuur, 32, fled her home and came to the Kalagooye Camp for displaced people in Jowhar. She brought her three young children – Hussein, Fatuma and four-year-old Mohammed. 

When Nutrition Coordinator for UNICEF Somalia James King’ori first saw Mohammed in late 2007, the boy was suffering from diarrhoea, anaemia and oedema – a condition that causes excessive fluid to accumulate in the body.

Recognizing these signs, Mr. King’ori immediately referred him to a local treatment centre for severely malnourished children managed by the Italian non-governmental organization INTERSOS in partnership with UNICEF.

Healthy again

At the centre, specialists provided Mohammed with medication and therapeutic feeding for four weeks until his oedema disappeared and he had returned to his target weight.

Two months later, Mohammed is healthy and back with his mother and siblings.

Mohammed’s mother is happy to have her son back alive and healthy, but she fears she will not be able to continue to give him the food that he requires.

UNICEF Image: chronic malnutrition, Somalia
© UNICEF Somalia/2007/ King’ori
Mohammed was suffering from severe malnutrition in 2007, before he was sent to the therapeutic nutrition centre in Jowhar.

“When we lived in Mogadishu, I earned $4 per day doing casual labor, like cleaning houses,” she said. “Now I earn 80 cents each day by selling grass for animals. I can hardly buy enough to eat, let alone other things.”

Most Somalis live on less than a dollar a day and, on average, live to be 47 years old.

According to recent nutritional assessment conducted in central and southern Somalia, malnutrition levels exceed World Health Organization emergency threshold levels of 15 per cent. There are 160,000 acutely malnourished children in the country, 25,000 of whom are severely malnourished.

Long-term response

In 2007, UNICEF launched an appeal for $50 million for emergency life-saving interventions to help children like Mohammed achieve better health. The organization works in partnership with donors and NGOs to ensure both an immediate and long-term response to the malnutrition crisis in Somalia.

With generous donor funding, UNICEF has been able to support 110 feeding centres in the central and southern part of the country, thereby successfully rehabilitating 64,000 acutely malnourished children in 2007.

UNICEF Representative in Somalia Christian Balslev-Olesen notes that UNICEF not only works with NGOs to improve hygiene and provide basic health care and immunization, but also works in tandem with UN partners to ensure livelihood and poverty issues are addressed.

“You cannot just treat malnutrition on its own,” says Mr. Balslev-Olesen. “You have to address longer term livelihood and poverty issues.”

James King’ori contributed to this story.



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