Food Crisis Hits Horn of Africa

Aug 22, 2011

Visiting Mogadishu's Overcrowded Hospitals

Somali mother. Photo by Cassandra Nelson
Somali mother. Photo by Cassandra Nelson

I've spent the last few days with Mercy Corps' emergency team in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, where drought, famine and disease are taking a devastating toll. In more than a decade of responding to many natural and man-made disasters with Mercy Corps, the situation in Mogadishu is truly the worst humanitarian crisis I've ever seen.

Hospitals are overcrowded. Displacement camps are filled with thousands of people. Families have walked for days to find a way to keep their malnourished children alive, and now the hospital is full of mothers sitting with their malnourished babies on scraps of cardboard because there are no beds or chairs to be found.

It's hard to look at such scenes, but it's important to show the world what's happening in Somalia. Thursday night I appeared on CBS Evening News to talk about what I saw and the courageous mothers I met – click here to watch it.

The segment includes my footage from a hospital we visited, where I met Halima, the mother of seven-month-old Abdulrahman. Halima's family lost all their cows and goats to the drought, and so they recently came to Mogadishu in search of food.

Little Abdulrahman is weak and much too small for his age. He's suffering from severe acute malnutrition and watery diarrhea, a symptom of cholera. Halima and her eldest daughter have been at the hospital for several days getting treatment for the baby boy.

When I returned a day later, I found Halima still holding tight to Abdulrahman.

"He is getting better," she told me with determination in her voice. "He will survive."

I believe her. It may be hard to fathom that such strength can exist during famine, but I've seen it in countless women like Halima. They are determined to save their children.

Our staff is working hard to get aid to families in Mogadishu as quickly as possible. Because of you and your generous donation, I know we can help people in Somalia survive this famine. Thank you.


Cassandra Nelson
Mercy Corps

P.S. Click here to learn more about Mercy Corps' response to the dire situation.
Overcrowded hospital in Mogadishu. Photo by Nelson
Overcrowded hospital in Mogadishu. Photo by Nelson



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