At a hospital in Mogadishu, the influx of children is a victim of the drought

Arbay Mahad Qasim has already seen two of his children die of starvation at eighteen months, victims of the endless drought that is overwhelming Somalia. As the situation only gets worse, she is now fighting to save her daughter, Ifrah.

In her twenties, the young woman wasted no time as her 2-year-old baby’s body began to swell, a symptom of severe malnutrition. She left her village of Afgooy Jiido to drive on a one-day drive to the capital Mogadishu. At Banadir Children’s and Maternity Hospital, she was with dozens of other parents in the grip of the same anguish as her. Some went for several days to save their child.

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For several months, Somalia has been plunged into a severe food crisis, caused by an unprecedented drought for at least forty years, which also affects neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. Humanitarian organizations continue to warn of the growing real risk of famine in the region. The last four rainy seasons since the end of 2020 have been inadequate, and today 7.1 million Somalis, almost half the population, live in starvation, of which 213,000 are on the brink of starvation, according to the ‘UN.

Overworked doctors

In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Somalis – who live mainly on livestock and agriculture – have left their villages after seeing their last resources wiped out. “The harvest did not take place. We lost our cattle. The river has dried up”says Khadija Mohamed Hassan, who brought her 14-month-old son, Bilal, to the hospital, placed on a drip. “I am 45 years old and I have never seen such a devastating drought in my life. We live in the worst conditions of our time”she sighs.

At Banadir hospital, the staff is overwhelmed. According to one of the doctors, Hafsa Mohamed Hassan, the number of patients arriving at the hospital’s stabilization center due to malnutrition has tripled. Some days the facility does not have enough beds to accommodate all the patients. “The cases we receive include children with complications [causées par la malnutrition], such as acute measles and others who are in a coma due to severe malnutrition ”she explains.

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For Bishar Osman Hussein of the NGO Concern Worldwide, which has supported Banadir Hospital since 2017, the situation is becoming critical. “Between January and June, the number of children admitted to Banadir Hospital’s Stabilization Center for Severe Malnutrition and Other Complications increased from 120 to 230 per month.”, he explains. Everyone fears that the next rainy season, in October and November, will fail again, further undermining this unstable country with its precarious infrastructure.

“We can not wait”

For fifteen years, Somalia has been confronted with the Islamist uprising in Chabab, whose establishment in large rural areas of the country restricts access to humanitarian aid to the population. The raging war in Ukraine also has a dramatic impact on the lives of Somalis, who have seen food prices rise.

With the world’s focus on Ukraine, humanitarian organizations are struggling to raise funds. They collected only 18% of the $ 1.5 billion (about 1.4 billion euros) estimated to be needed to avoid a recurrence of the famine in 2011, which killed 260,000 people, half of them children under 6 years of age. . “We can not wait for famine to be declared to act”said Monday, June 13, the director of the World Food Program (WFP) in Somalia, El-Khidir Daloum.

Last week, newly elected President Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud visited a camp for displaced people near Baidoa in the southwestern part of the country. “Anyone who has a plate of food on their table today should think of the baby somewhere crying due to hunger and help them in any way they can”he urged.

At Banadir Hospital, Khadija Mohamed Hassan watches over her fragile Bilal and remains hopeful: “We’ve been here for thirteen days, he looks better now.”

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The world with AFP

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