Diarrhoea is preventable and easily treated but many families leave it too late
By Irene Obare, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mogadishu
Kismayo, Somalia, 13 March 2017 - The ongoing drought in Somalia has focused the world’s attention on the possibility of another famine – but every year in the country, tens of thousands of children become seriously malnourished through an easily treatable illness – diarrhoea. Most cases of diarrhoea are due to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene and can be easily treated with oral rehydration therapy and continued feeding. But left untreated it can quickly deprive a child’s body of nutrients and fluid and lead to malnutrition and death.
In the main hospital in the southern town of Kismayo, desperate mothers bring their sick and malnourished children for treatment. Those who are severely malnourished with other medical conditions are admitted to a special ward known as the Stabilization Centre for treatment while the others are referred to outpatient therapeutic programmes.
Many mothers such as twenty three year old Fatima Simwo do not realize how serious diarrhoea can be or how it should be treated. She fights back the tears as she explains how her three year old son Abdullahi nearly died. After suffering from diarrhoea three weeks ago. The family tried traditional treatment using a heated stick on his body but he continued to deteriorate so Fatima rushed him to hospital in Kismayo. He was already very weak, malnourished and anaemic and could not even drink. Abdullahi was immediately admitted to the hospital where he received blood transfusions and antibiotics and was fed through a tube in his nose with therapeutic milk. The medical staff are closely monitoring him and say they are happy Abdullahi is improving.
Hawa Abdi Abokor was so worried about her toddler’s health that she braved wild animals and armed men to take her by donkey from her village in Jammame district to the local town and then a bus to Kismayo Hospital. Her daughter Halima, the last born of five, had diarrhoea and a poor appetite and was very weak. She was immediately admitted and was given medical treatment and fortified therapeutic milk eight times a day and is improving.
At the Outpatient Therapeutic Centre run by the UK NGO Skill Active Forward (SAF) UK with UNICEF support a smiling mother Isho Salim Awes sat with her two youngest children aged two and one on her lap.. Twenty five year old Iso, her husband and five children have lived in Dalxisha camp for the displaced for the last nine months since arriving from Jileb which they left due to insecurity and drought. She brought in two year old Hassan Mohamed was severely malnourished weighing just 7.2 kilograms After four weeks taking part in the outpatient therapeutic programme therapeutic which includes a supply of therapeutic peanut paste, he has gained nearly a kilo and mother and child are smiling.