Around 6.2 million men, women and children, more than half of Somalia’s population, already have too little to eat. An estimated 1.6 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition. 225,000 are at immediate risk of death, unless they receive treatment.
225,000 children are at immediate risk of death, unless they receive treatment.
And the drought keeps around 40,000 children away from school, as their families need them to help search for water, or carry them with them as they flee to regions where water and food are less scarce, and where medical assistance is available.
‘Our entire village is hit by the drought and many people suffer from it. When our baby is no longer malnourished, when he is cured, my husband and I have to go back to our village. Our two other children have stayed with our family,’ says Hawa Abdurashid, who is staying with her son at Bosaso Hospital, where Doctors of the World provides treatment to severely malnourished children.
Somalia has two rainy seasons. The rainfall in the current one, the ‘Gu Rain’, which lasts from April to June, is likely to be 10-25 per cent below average.
The rain which does fall will temporarily improve the dire situation here, but too many cattle have already died, and too many crops have been destroyed by the killing sun.
And in a bitter irony, it is also believed the Gu Rain will cause local floods, and cases – especially in children – of life-threatening diarrhoea, cholera, measles and malaria.
Gu Rain will cause local floods and epidemic diseases.
‘I'm from a village that has been severely affected by the drought. My family lost all our cattle and then my baby became ill. The trip to the hospital lasted a lot longer than 24 hours. I'm here since one day and my baby continues to vomit and has other complications,’ says a desperate mother, forced to share a hospital bed with her daughter.
Doctors of the World has been working in and around the port city of Bosaso in north-eastern Somalia since 2012.
Outside the centre of Bosaso and in surrounding villages, numerous camps have been erected, and now host some 60,000 Somalis, the so-called internally displaced people, who fled famine in other regions.
Whole families have fled to these camps, but often mothers arrive alone with their children, have reaching their destination only after a journey of a day or more, and with nothing more than the clothes they stand up in. Men often remain in the villages to keep the few cattle they still own, alive. In other cases, those fathers, brothers and sons, have already died.
Doctors of the World
In the district of Bosaso Doctors of the World supports the provision of health care to displaced people and refugees and to the vulnerable host community, both in urban settings and remote rural areas.
Although some private health centres also exist in the region, they are way beyond the financial means even of the average local resident, let alone the Somalis residing in the camps. But the Doctors of the World centres, the largest four of which are open 24 hours a day, are completely free, and open to all.
As a result, demand is high: some centres provide services for almost 50,000 people, and more than 70 per cent of those patients are coming from the camps.
The patients are most often mothers and their children, who receive general medical consultations and care, as well as food specially-adapted to help their malnourished children. The Doctors of the World staff assists at and guarantees safe deliveries and provides sexual healthcare and advice.
The patients are most often mothers and their children, who receive general medical consultations and care.
The medical teams also provide daily information sessions, to help people learn and respond to the first signs of malnutrition, as well as the earliest indicators of pregnancy, malaria and of potentially life-threatening diarrhoea.
Fadumo Abshir Geire, program coordinator of Doctors of the World Somalia, notes: ‘It happens regularly that our colleagues in the centres, or our mobile teams find children with severe malnutrition and complications. Our ambulance brings the children and their mother to the specialized department at Bosaso Hospital where the child is given special food treatment immediately.’
‘During hospitalization, the mother or another relative can stay with the child at the hospital and they can eat, too.’
And the situation in Somalia remains extremely complex.
The state’s economy has really not yet begun to recover from decades of war, and conflict still rages in several parts of the country, which also means vital infrastructure has been destroyed and cannot yet be repaired. All these factors combine to make it extremely difficult for aid agencies to reach the people in greatest need, in time.
But solidarity among the Somalian population remains strong. The first people to come to the aid of those hit hardest by the famine were students, businesspeople and religious leaders, and they remain on the front-line, collecting and distributing food to those who need it.
Solidarity among the Somalian population remains strong
And even the people in the camps work to take care of those people in the camps even more vulnerable than themselves, including giving some of the small amount of food they have to mothers with young children.