MOGADISHU (Somali Update Online) — Hunger and thirst, the deadly consequences of Somalia’s drought, have doubled the number of children admitted to the nutritional centre in Baidoa.
The centre, one of the few places where malnourished children under age five can get life-saving treatment in south and central Somalia, has more than twice as many children this year compared to last year.
In a similar centre in the country’s southern port city, Kismayo, the situation is much the same, the facility is overwhelmed by the high number of mothers streaming in with children visibly wasted, and in urgent need of medical help.
At Baidoa hospital, tents have been put up to accommodate an increase in patients that has stretched the hospital’s capacity to far beyond its 150-bed limit. The centre has now admitted 230 children under the age of five, who are staying with either their mothers or care givers. This time last year, the figure stood at 100.
“The work has increased so much. The patients have increased says Suldano, the supervisor at the nutrition centre. “We are tired. There’s a gap in the staff. More staff came in but the gap is still there and they are not enough.”
Uncertainties about the rainfall performance during the current Gu season (April – May) has raised fears that the effects of the drought will persist and the risk of the situation deteriorating further remains very real. A sharp spike in malnutrition levels is a cruel signal that things could be taking a turn for the worse. Only six years ago, a devastating famine in the country led to the death of over a quarter million people, half of them children.
“What we saw in the two nutrition centres that we are supporting in Kismayo and in Baidoa, is nearly double the number of children that have been admitted to these two centres. Which is clearly the result of a severe food crisis that is currently affecting Somalia.” says Dominik Stillhart, the head of ICRC Operations.
There is some good news: the nutrition centres in Kismayo and Baidoa, supported by the ICRC, as well as the Somali Red Crescent network of clinics, have scaled up their response and remain vital centres where parents can bring their sick and malnourished children.
“When the mother or the father brings in the child and they say ‘the child is dying and we brought him here’. In the end, they leave here laughing and happy. It’s one of the things that makes me very happy.” says Suldano, supervisor at the nutrition centre.
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