Mobile clinics save lives in drought stricken Toghdeer region
UNICEF reaches the hardest-to-reach
Bali Abaar, Somaliland - Located four hundred kilometers north-east of Hargeisa, Bali Abaar, is among the hard to-reach locations served by UNICEF mobile clinics. An acacia tree gives shelter from the scorching heat to both the attendees that numbers more than one hundred and the mobile clinic team.
Fatuma Saleban is among the families who trekked for hours in search of food, water, and health care.
“I was displaced from Sanyare village and walked for four hours to reach here. I have four children and I left two behind to stay with their grandmother. We have been affected by the biting drought. I had one hundred and thirty goats and lost more than one hundred; the rest are too weak to move. I left them behind. I migrated in search of emergency relief like food and water and arrived here where my two children who are malnourished are receiving support,” Fatuma said.
Mobile clinics are deployed to cater for vulnerable communities living in hard-to-reach areas where health workers diagnose and treat common childhood illnesses, vaccinate children against measles, meningitis, and other diseases, provide nutrition counselling and treatment and distribute hygiene kits to families.
Attendees at the mobile clinics are also taught important health practices. This includes supporting and encouraging them to breastfeed and discussing good hygiene practices to prevent diseases.
Abdisalam Guleid, a healthcare professional, is attending to Abdifatah who indicated that he is malnourished and requires vaccination. Abdisalam has recorded increasing cases of malnutrition in the past ten months that are largely due to the drought. He sees many severely malnourished children and infants that he refers to the stabilization centre located sixty kilometers away in Burao town.
“Services offered to Abdifatah included check-ups, where we found him to be underweight and malnourished. To counter this, we offered him weekly rations of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). We will check him during the next visit and offer more of these nutrition provision. His mother was counselled and given lessons about important practices such as handwashing with soap to ensure hygiene and breastfeeding. More families are migrating due to shortages of essentials caused by the drought and more children are lacking enough to eat. I came across increased cases of severe malnutrition that I referred to Burao Stabilization Center,” he explaines.
Abdifatah’s mother was hopeful with support received; her son will recover fully. “I’m grateful for getting these critical services here and with this support. I’m hopeful my son will recover fully,” she states.
The beds at the Burao Stabilization Center are currently full. A patient is one year old Nimo Mohamed, who is severely malnourished.
“We came here a week ago from Hereer. My daughter was very weak, had diarrhea and was unable to open her eyes. She was immediately put on fluids and given milk that managed to stop the diarrhea. She is much better and now able to sit on my lap. I’m also malnourished and was unable to breastfeed her. The drought wiped out all our animals and we had nothing left for food,” says Nura Ibrahim.
“When severe cases are referred to the stabilization centres by mobile clinics or other centers, the children are immediately given critical support, and this has largely saved their lives. For instance, after treating Muna’s diarrhea condition, the stabilization centre staff addressed her severe malnutrition with therapeutic milk formula and around the clock medical care,” says Johara Mohamoud, who oversees the UNICEF supported nutrition and health services in Toghdeer region.
Persistent levels of acute malnutrition disproportionately affect the rural poor and drought-affected pastoralists. Their children are particularly vulnerable because these families cannot afford to improve their diet to prevent or recover from malnutrition.
As the drought worsens, UNICEF is scaling up its support by working with the government, local authorities and NGO partners.
Thanks to the generous donation from USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), UNICEF is providing heightened emergency integrated health and nutrition services, particularly through the mobile health and nutrition clinics which are bringing services closer to vulnerable communities including the internally displaced. UNICEF has also increased its support in inpatient facilities that caters for severely malnourished children.