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UNICEF supports stabilization centres to treat malnourished children in Somalia

© UNICEF Somalia/2011/Morooka
Mohamed, 2, with his mother Malyon in the stabilization centre at Benadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, where he is being is treated for malnutrition.

By Iman Morooka

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 8 September 2011 – Mohamed, 2, weighed just over five kg when he was brought to Benadir Hospital in Mogadishu recently. His family had arrived in the Somali capital just a month earlier. Due to prolonged drought, they had lost all of their livestock back home in Elbur, located in the Galgaduud region of central Somalia.

Mohamed, who was suffering from severe diarrhoea and malnutrition, was admitted to the hospital’s UNICEF-supported stabilization centre.

After treating his diarrhoeal condition, the hospital staff addressed his severe malnutrition with therapeutic formulas and round-the-clock medical care.

The boy’s weight increased to 9 kg, and a nurse said he would soon be discharged from inpatient care.

Children at high risk

Mohamed’s family is just one of tens of thousands across Somalia who have fled to Mogadishu, which is now home to 470,000 displaced persons. About 100,000 of them have recently arrived in the city, escaping the effects of famine and drought.

“We now live in Badbaado camp for the displaced, where we intend to stay because we don’t have any means to survive back home,” said Mohamed’s mother. Badbaado camp shelters nearly 30,000 displaced persons, according to the UN refugee agency.

There are far too many Somali children, like Mohamed, falling into severe malnutrition – a condition that places them at high risk of death within weeks unless appropriate treatment is provided. As a result, the stabilization centre at Benadir Hospital is operating beyond its full capacity, treating hundreds of severely malnourished children each month.

The hospital lacks enough beds to accommodate all the patients, and some of the children and their mothers have to sleep on mattresses on the floor. During July alone, about 450 children were admitted to the facility, with over 300 treated and discharged.

© UNICEF Somalia/2011/Morooka
UNICEF Somalia Chief of Child Survival Dr. Osamu Kunii talks to one of the mothers of severely malnourished children who are being treated at the Benadir Hospital stabilization centre in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Specialized care

The Benadir Hospital centre is one of four such specialized inpatient facilities in Mogadishu, and 16 throughout southern Somalia, that UNICEF supports in order to provide treatment to severely malnourished children suffering from medical complications.

UNICEF Somalia Senior Nutrition Manager Peter Hailey explained how children are treated when they arrive at the stabilization centres.

“At this critical stage,” he said, “feeding the child with just food could be harmful, because their body has been severely weakened and they need special therapeutic formulas.” Once medical complications such as fever, diarrhoea and pneumonia are under control and the child recovers his or her strength and appetite, added Mr. Hailey, “they then go on a treatment course for a few weeks that uses ready-to-use therapeutic food, which helps the child to rapidly regain weight.”

UNICEF steps up support

Amal, 15, the young mother of a 20-month-old baby, Mohammed, is relieved that her son is showing signs of recovery.

“My child was vomiting and had diarrhoea. I was so worried about how sick he was,” she recalled. Amal and the baby had just arrived in Mogadishu from Bardera in Somalia’s Gedo region two weeks before.

“After three days of treatment at the hospital, he is much better,” Amal said as she fed ready-to-use therapeutic food to her child. “His diarrhoea has subsided, and now he is recovering.”

In response to the current food crisis here, UNICEF has more than doubled its support to both outpatient and inpatient facilities across southern Somalia, aiming to treat 17,000 severely malnourished children each month. Since early July, UNICEF has shipped more than 490 tonnes of ready-to-use therapeutic food into southern Somalia, enough to treat over 33,000 severely malnourished children.



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