After two decades of conflict, Somalia is the world’s most fragile state. Successive years of conflict, drought and flooding have put the country in a state of prolonged and chronic humanitarian crisis Population growth, increased pressure on resources, insecurity and prolonged political instability have made it harder for the poorest communities to cope with and recover from successive and recurrent shocks throughout the past two decades, particularly conflicts and droughts. Each shock sends the communities into deeper vulnerability and further erodes their means to prepare for the next crisis.
In 2011-2012, Somalia was badly affected by the first famine of the 21st century, leading for instance to massive displacements across the country. The scale and scope of that disaster has made it still very difficult for populations to recover, considering in particular that the country has faced several smaller-scale but recurrent shocks over the past couple of years: localized conflicts/displacements, flash flooding, IDP camp fires, etc.
For example, over 2013, Save the Children has responded to the following smaller-scale emergencies, in addition to its on-going higher-scale humanitarian programs:
- Floods and cholera outbreak in Galgaduud;
- IDP camps fires in Garowe, Bosasso and Hargeisa;
- Support immediate food security needs in Mogadishu IDP camps
- Evictions and Displacements
- Polio and Measles Outbreak Mogadishu and Puntland
- Floods in Puntland and Somaliland, following the passage of cyclone 03A;
To date, the overall humanitarian situation in Somalia remains critical and is expected to get worse in coming months as the impact of the poor Gu harvest is felt, especially in South and Central Somalia.
One million people still require aid to meet their basic needs and a further 1.7 million who recently emerged from the 2011 drought crisis could fall back into crisis without sustained support.
An estimated 70,000 children a year die before their fifth birthday, and 30.5% of women of reproductive age die due to pregnancy related causes.
The ongoing conflict continues to cause death, upheaval and displacement. Some more localized clan conflicts throughout the country also create further displacements and further pressure on scarce resources, for instance in Hiraan end of December 2013.
Food security in South Central Somalia is deteriorating as a result of failed sorghum harvests and a poor Gu harvest. The situation in parts of South and Central Somalia has been described by OCHA in its most recent bulletin as ‘dire’.
Hawi brought her nephew Ahmed to the Asayita hospital for treatment for severe acute malnutrition. They live in a small rural village in Afar region. Ahmed, two years and four months old, has been in the stabilization center for the past eight days. Ahmed’s mother has just given birth to another child and his father has passed away so his aunt and his grandmother brought him to the hospital on a Save the Children project vehicle from where they live. He is now making progress and is ready for release.
Hawi’s story in her own words
“My name is Hawi. I am Ahmed’s aunt. Ahmed was severely suffering of an illness and was getting weak as days went by. We were referred to come to the Asayita hospital after being assessed at the OTP center in Mamule health post.
Ahmed is now two years and four months old. His mother is at home after having given birth to another child. As she couldn’t accompany him, and is recovering from the delivery, we [myself and his grandmother] brought him here. We came for medication and treatment for Ahmed but also received money, (80 birr/day) which totals 640 birr (USD $36). This has helped us with expenses for ourselves while we stay in Asayita, away from our home.
Ahmed’s father passed away in a car accident while his wife was still pregnant. Their first daughter also passed away very shortly after becoming sick one night. Ahmed didn’t start eating when he reached the age that he was supposed to. He gets sick very often and does not have a good appetite. He doesn’t eat normally. Now, his health condition has been improving as they are constantly giving him nutritious milk [F75] and medication.
We commonly eat mufe [made with corn flour that is baked under-ground like bread]. We used to have a farm before we moved to our village but we had to sell that and our animals to come here to start a better life. Now we buy corn from other farmers for our consumption. We get water from a nearby river. Luckily, it passes by close to our home. There are other people that come from very faraway places to get to this river.
I hope we won’t get hungry. We [women] usually try and go back to corn-harvested farms and pick the remaining shoots of corn that can be collected and sold. This is an extra income for us to support our families.
The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that 925 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger and starvation each year. Some of the key causes of hunger are natural disasters, poverty, conflict and poor agricultural infrastructure.
Malnutrition occurs when a diet lacks essential nutritional elements such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals over a prolonged period of time. Being deficient in micronutrients makes people susceptible to diseases, impairs physical and mental development (particularly in children) and increases their risk of dying.
How Merlin is Helping
Merlin runs nutrition programs across East Africa in Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan. Our static and mobile clinics carry out screening for malnutrition in vulnerable populations – children under five, pregnant and breast feeding women, those suffering from disease. Those diagnosed are placed on feeding programs and given nutrient rich food such as Plumpy Net®, a high energy, high protein food, or milk formula (for infants) until they gain weight.
We collaborate with partners such as the World Food Programme to deliver food supplies to at-risk populations in some of the most remote locations to prevent food crises from emerging and engage in community education programs to promote healthy nutrition in infants and encourage mothers to breastfeed their children.
Feeding the World
The world now faces a challenge to address the food and nutrition security needs for the millions of people worldwide who suffer from long term hunger or those unable to get enough nutritious food for a healthy life. Equally important is the need to prevent the millions of deaths of children under five. Among the Millennium Development Goals set out for this century, halving the portion of people suffering from hunger tops the list.
This is why the challenge for Merlin to reduce the number of people who suffer from hunger, decrease malnutrition rates and save more lives in the countries we work has such great importance. That is why with your continued support we can remain in place like East Africa to fight and end hunger decisively.
Merlin has been providing nutrition services in Kerio— one region of Turkana province—since 2006. When the food crisis set in last year, existing activities in Kerio’s health facility were scaled up, and community health workers began conducting outreach visits to communities up to six miles away from the facility.
One baby identified as severely malnourished by the health workers was eight month old Napeyok. She was immediately referred to Merlin’s outpatient therapeutic program at Kerio’s health facility.
At the time she weighed about eight pounds and had a mid-upper- arm circumference of 4.29 inches (a measurement of 4.3 inches or below indicates that a child is suffering from severe acute malnutrition). She was also suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, as well as, testing positive for malaria.
Napeyok’s mother - Veronica Ipoo— had been raising six children alone in a village near to Kerio. She had 30 goats—the family’s source of food and livelihood. The severe drought led to the depletion of green pastures and the death of the goats. The family became malnourished, including Veronica herself, who became unable to provide breast milk to the youngest ones.
However, Napeyok’s condition steadily improved after being given medication and supplies of PlumpyNut (a highly nutritious peanut butter paste packed with calories and vitamins, especially formulated to renourish starving children) by Merlin health workers, and attending consultations every week. By November she was still malnourished, but only moderately so, and was transferred to a supplementary feeding program. After a further two months of receiving a corn-soya blend (a fortified porridge), she was finally discharged in January.
Napeyok is now sixteen months old, and the family has moved in with relatives in Kerio who share their meals of beans and maize in return for firewood and water fetched by Veronica. It is a temporary solution, but ensures that the family does not go hungry, and allows Veronica to begin building up her livestock again. She says that, if it were not for Merlin, Napeyok - once so weak and prone to illnesses – would not have survived.
“I don’t have anything. No food or milk to give my children. I don’t have money to buy food either. That is why my baby is skinny,” says Adbia.
Adbia Hossain is anxious. She fears for the life of her baby girl, Socado who is severely malnourished. Socado also has a bad cough, oral thrush and rashes on her body, perhaps from a previous measles infection.
Fear is a constant
Not being able to care for your sick child because you have no food or money is a situation no one should be in. Sadly, it’s a reality for many people living in the midst of conflict and the East African Food Crisis.
Fear is not unknown to Adbia. Due to fighting in Somalia in 2012 near her hometown, Afgoye she was forced to leave her home with her family at a moment’s notice. Her parents did not survive the attacks.
With no lifeline, Adbia and her family have been living on the brink. The drought also took away their remaining herd of goats and they barely survive on the humanitarian aid they receive in Nabadoon camp where they live.
Breaking free from despair
Being in right place at the right time, Adbia heard about Merlin's health and nutrition program from the local leader of the camp. It was a stroke of luck.
At the first opportunity early next morning, Adbia walked to the Merlin clinic. Socado was examined by medical staff and given a range of vital medicines such as oral drops and Plumpy’Nut paste. This saved her from her critical condition and giving her ability to reclaim the chance of starting a healthy life. Under the doctor’s advice Socado was also put on a three month treatment program.
“I am happy my daughter is getting better with Merlin’s help”, said a relieved Adbia.
Expecting chaos, hunger and uncertainty on a daily basis is normal for people like Adbia but do you think it should be? Although not all of the problems related to conflict situations can be resolved, you can help us wipe away some of these life-threatening health issues from people’s lives by donating to Merlin today.
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