In a Mogadishu hospital, an influx of children victims of drought

Arabi Mahad Qassem witnessed the starvation of two of his sons during eighteen months, victims of the endless drought ravaging Somalia. As the situation worsens, she is now fighting to save her daughter Ifrah.

In her twenties, the young woman wasted no time when her two-year-old’s body began to swell, a symptom of severe malnutrition. She left her village, Afgoye Gedo, for a day’s drive to the capital, Mogadishu. At Banadir Hospital for Children and Maternity, she and dozens of other parents found herself in the grip of the same pain she had. Some walked several days to save their child.

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For months, Somalia has been mired in a serious food crisis, caused by a drought on an unprecedented scale for at least forty years, which is also affecting neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. Humanitarian organizations continue to warn of the real and growing threat of famine in the region. The last four rainy seasons since the end of 2020 have been insufficient and today 7.1 million Somalis, nearly half of the population, are living in a state of starvation, of whom 213,000 are on the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations.

tired doctors

In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Somalis – who mainly live off livestock farming and agriculture – have left their villages after witnessing their last resources exterminated. “The harvest is not done. We have lost our livestock. The river has dried up”says Khadija Muhammad Hassan, who brought her 14-month-old son Bilal to the hospital, who was put in a solution. “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.

The staff at Banadir Hospital are exhausted. According to one of the female doctors, Hafsa Mohamed Hassan, the number of patients arriving from the hospital’s ambulance center due to dehydration has tripled. On some days the facility does not have enough beds to accommodate all patients. The cases we receive include children with complications [causées par la malnutrition]And the such as acute measles, and others who are comatose due to acute malnutrition”she explained.

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For Bashar Othman Hussein, of the NGO Concern Worldwide, which has been supporting Banadir Hospital since 2017, the situation has become critical. “Between January and June, the number of children admitted to the Benadir Hospital Stabilization Center for acute malnutrition and other complications increased from 120 to 230 per month.”, he explains. Everyone fears that the upcoming rainy season, in October and November, will fail again, further undermining this unstable country with its unstable infrastructure.

“we can’t wait”

Somalia has been facing for fifteen years the insurgency of the Islamist movement Al-Shabab, whose establishment in vast rural areas of the country limits humanitarian access to the population. The war raging in Ukraine is also having a major impact on the lives of Somalis, who have witnessed a sharp rise in food prices.

With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine, humanitarian organizations are struggling to raise funds. They collected only 18% of the estimated $1.5 billion (about 1.4 billion euros) needed to avoid a repeat of the 2011 famine, which killed 260,000 people, half of whom were children under 6 years old. ‘We can’t wait for a famine to be announced to act’The Director of the World Food Program in Somalia, Al-Khader Dalum, said Monday, June 13.

Newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud last week visited a camp for the displaced near Baidoa in the southwest of the country. “Anyone who has a plate of food on his table today should think of the child somewhere crying out of hunger and help him in any way possible.”urged.

At Banadir Hospital, Khadija Mohammed Hassan looks after Bilal Al-Daif and remains optimistic: “We have been here for thirteen days, it looks better now.”

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The world with AFP

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