Save the Children Federation

Save the Children is the world's leading independent organization for children. Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Our mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.
Apr 2, 2012

Spotlight on Merlin's Response in Somalia

Health facility set up in Elbreda refugee camp
Health facility set up in Elbreda refugee camp

Thank you for your support of Merlin's Emergency Response to the East Africa Food Crisis.  You will read in this and other Updates, that with your support our work is making a difference and we are saving lives.

Sadly, another food crisis is developing in the west of Africa, in the Sahel Region, that spreads across six countries, including Chad, where Merlin has sent an emergency health and nutrition team  - if you want to read more and show your support, please go to 


Merlin has established strong links with local authorities, communities and the Ministry of Health in the areas of South Central and Puntland, where we work.  This has enabled our teams to operate efficiently and effectively in an extremely volatile environment.

Seasonal rains (despite making minor improvements to drought conditions) have impeded relief efforts.  Heavy downpours caused delays in the delivery of food, vaccinations and medical supplies, as many roads became impassable. Additionally, stagnant water and localized flooding increased the potential for the spread of waterborne illnesses.

Merlin’s Activities (July ’11 to Jan ’12)                         

Improving access to health services

  • Merlin supports, eight health facilities, three health posts and five mobile health teams at 25 outreach sites providing primary health care, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • A total of 155,661 consultations were carried out offering preventative care and treatment.
  • Teams also continued disease surveillance and responded to outbreaks: 158 measles cases and 206 cases of acute watery diarrhea were managed and treated.
  • Over 68,500 people attended 558 health & hygiene education sessions, that were conducted by community health workers; issues such as why vaccinations and health facility-based childbirth are a good thing, are discussed. 
  • 84 health staff were trained on the management of malnutrition and childhood illnesses. 
  • 50 new Community Health Workers (male and female) were recruited and trained.
  • 6,145 pregnant women and new mothers were screened for malnutrition, given vitamin supplements and offered reproductive advice.
  • 67 Community Health Committees (made up of local people with at least one female participant) were trained on how to secure, co-ordinate and distribute food stocks.

Improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition

  • 15,734 children under five were screened for malnutrition.
  • 774 children were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, enrolled in an outpatient therapeutic feeding program and provided with nutritional supplements.
  • 5 outreach, mobile teams were established (the outreach clinics are set up at a different location each day, in a two week cycle), to increase the screening and referral services available to local communities.

Improving water quality and hygiene and sanitation awareness

  • 58 Community Health Workers were trained on safe water treatment.
  • 12 local ‘Water Associations’ were established, with members being taught how to handle and store safe, clean water.

Strengthening local resilience for faster response to future crises

  • Weekly disease surveillance reports were shared with other NGOs, local agencies and authorities.
  • A disease-control mechanism was established: case management and treatment was enhanced by community education, capacity building of health committees and staff, and the pre-positioning of supplies to combat outbreaks, at health facilities.


Insecurity remains the single biggest issue facing Merlin’s response across Somalia, in particular in Galgaduud. In November 2011, Al-Shabaab, the controlling militant group, banned 16 aid agencies, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), from southern and central Somalia - the regions where drought and famine conditions are most acute. This led to limited stock and access difficulties leading to a delay in providing nutritional and medical supplies.

Merlin has developed good relationships with the local authorities and communities, and our work is accepted, provided local laws and customs are respected. Merlin is, and will continue to be, open with the authorities and respectful of their culture to ensure that we can continue to operate.

Long term impact

Merlin routinely works with the Ministry of Health through existing health structures to support and strengthen the capacity in-country to deliver quality health services.  Merlin’s programs are designed to provide long-term sustainable solutions to health care provision.  Therefore, in addition to emergency response activities, Merlin is focused on helping Somalia recover from the crisis by strengthening local capacity in a sustainable way through the rehabilitation of health facilities and water supplies, educating communities in health-seeking behavior, training local staff and building community resilience to cope with future disasters.  

Once again, thank you for supporting Merlin's work.

Elbreda camp on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia
Elbreda camp on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia


Mar 19, 2012

Spotlight on Merlin's Response in Ethiopia

Testing for malnutrition using a MUAC strip
Testing for malnutrition using a MUAC strip

STOP PRESS: Before you read about the impact Merlin has made in Ethiopia, I wanted to tell you about another food crisis that is happening right now, in the Sahel region of West Africa.  A number of countries are part of the Sahel region, and currently Merlin is focussing on Chad.  We have sent an emergency team to the country and are setting up health and nutrition services (similar to those described below) targeting around half a million people, including over 75,000 children.

Merlin is trying to prevent a cases of severe and acute malnutrition now, rather than having to care and cure famine victims in the future.  We plan to be in Chad for a minimum of 12 months.  If you want to read more or give your support, please visit Merlin’s website, or go to our appeal on the Global Giving webite using key words; Merlin-Sahel- West Africa Food Crisis.


Spotlighting Activities in Ethiopia

July 2011 – Feb 2012

Over 180,000 people benefitted from Merlin’s health, nutrition and water and sanitation activities over the last seven months.  Unfortunately, rainfall in Somali Region was significantly lower than the seasonal norm, and resulted in areas of the region, particularly Gode and Afder (where Merlin work) being in persistent drought. It is predicted that the drought will continue until at least June, 2012, which means that Merlin need to remain until, at least June 2012 too.

Health care & nutrition

  • Merlin supports 10 primary health care facilities.
  • Merlin also operates six mobile health and nutrition teams operating in 30 locations within five woredas (townships) – Adadle, Barey, Gode, Qalaafo and Ber Ano, in Gode and Afdar Zones (counties). 

Each mobile health team comprises of:

-        a nutritional nurse, who screen, treat and educate communities in nutrition,

-        a clinical nurse, offering medical diagnosis, offer treatment and manage ongoing patient cases,

-        a dispenser, who supplies and manages the medicines given out, and

-        a community development officer, the liaison with the local communities and promotes health issues and                care through health education lessons.

  • More than 82,400 people had health and nutrition consultations with Merlin staff.
  • A total of 19,490 children (16,608), pregnant woman and new mothers (2,882) were screened for malnutrition.
  • 3,621 children under five were treated for illnesses such as diarrhoea (490), pneumonia (1,546) and malaria (360).
  • 59,000 people had health education via community group sessions, school forums & house to house calls.  They were given information on health issues, care and prevention eg. basic hygiene and sanitation practices, disease risks (such as malaria & measles) and how to prevent catching and, or spreading illness.
  • Safe (clean) delivery kits were handed out to women in their last trimester and distributed to health facilities.

Water and Sanitation

  • 120 latrines - toilet and washing facilities - were built in partnership with a local NGO Ogaden Welfare and Development Assoc. this meant over 2,300 families (approx. 13,800 men, women and children) had a daily water supply.
  • Three waste disposal pits were also constructed to serve the 2,300 families.
  • A further 8,256 people had improved access to clean water with the distribution of aquatabs.


Mini emergencies – an emergency response within the response

Although Merlin’s Ethiopia team has been responding to the emergency food crisis for over nine months, there are specific situations, where an even more targeted, immediate response is needed.  These situations need the team to move into emergency mode to prevent, longer term health emergency evolving.  The Merlin team have responded in this way on four separate occasions: in three cases (in August, September and October, 2011) the provision of health care, food and supplies were desperately needed in specific woredas.  In the other case (November, 2011) flash floods after torrential rain had resulted in a high risk of water-borne illnesses spreading.  Merlin supplied emergency drugs to health facilities that were providing care for flood affected families. 

3,602 people received health and nutrition services from Merlin, during these ‘mini emergencies’.


Current activities

Many of the families which Merlin serve are continually re-locating due to conflict and tribal disruptions, the natural migration of pastoralist communities and the movement of refugee groups from Somalia.  With this in mind our teams have to plan strategically and be ever mindful of where they locate mobile clinics to offer health care to the maximum amount of people.

Merlin teams are now operational in seven townships of Gode & Afder Zones (counties); Adadle, Barey, Ferfer, Gode, Mustahil, Qalaafo &  Burra Ano and five townships; Arero, Dhas, Dillo, Dugdadawa & Melka Soda, in Borena Zone in Ethiopia.

Thank you for supporting our work – you are helping to save lives.

Training Health Workers, Gode
Training Health Workers, Gode
Hijad with his grandmother Halima, Gode Hospital
Hijad with his grandmother Halima, Gode Hospital


Feb 29, 2012

Spotlight on Kenya - East Africa Food Crisis

Turkwell Outreach Clinic, Selina & daughter Ajikou
Turkwell Outreach Clinic, Selina & daughter Ajikou

The Food Crisis in Kenya

Since July 2011, Merlin’s emergency response in East Africa has saved lives, kept thousands (mostly children) from starvation & malnourishment, and supported & trained hundreds of local health workers. 

In Kenya, Merlin has up-scaled its activities quickly and effectively. See below:

Health Facilities - Before the food crisis Merlin supported 23 health facilities in the Turkana area.  Now, Merlin supports 30. 

Mobile clinics (outreach teams) - Before the food crisis Merlin supported 36 locations for mobile clinics.  Now, Merlin has 72 outreach sites, each location is visited twice a month by our teams.

Kenya - Fast Facts (up to end of Jan 2012):

  • Focusing on communities living in very remote villages, Merlin screened 29,727 children under five for malnutrition.
  • Of these, 257 were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, 246 were cured, and sadly, 13 children died.
  • In general, the number of people that are severely malnourished in Turkana (an area in the northwest area of Kenya where Merlin focuses their work) has decreased from 30.8% to 13.9%. (Source: Dec 2011 Nutrition Survey from World Health Organization, in coordination with Merlin, UNICEF, IRC and World Vision).
  • Merlin ran ante-natal classes for 5,431 women.
  • Community health workers presented nearly 1,300 health education sessions to over 78,285 people, raising awareness on health and sanitation issues. 
  • 10 health facilities had solar powered refrigerators installed, to keep vaccinations cool.
  • This helped with the vaccination of 13, 468 people, this included 12,893 children under one year old and another 455 under five.
  • 23 latrines were constructed in 23 health clinics, and 60 hand washing points were built in 30 health facilities.
  • 125 local health staff were trained on preparing for emergency situations (such as the current food crisis, diseases outbreaks etc.) and how to respond effectively.


The significant drop in malnutrition rates was attributed to a number of factors:

-        A co-ordinated, efficient response by all those humanitarian agencies (including Merlin) who work in the affected region.

-        The General Food Distribution (GFD) program that offers families extra food was revived in July 2011.

-        The introduction of monthly food supplements to all children under five years old, pregnant women and new mothers.  This program was initially only for children under three.

-        Heavy rainfalls in late August – early September and again in late October - mid November.  Although this also hampered Merlin mobile teams from reaching those in the most remote sites for a short period.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – a UK organization, who has given grants for Merlin’s food crisis emergency response, observed after a recent visit that Merlin was able to ‘rapidly and successfully scale up its operations and establish good links with other agencies working in the area’. 

The DEC also confirmed that Merlin should remain in a constant state of emergency preparedness, ready to respond to any sudden increase in malnutrition rates, while continuing to work to prevent additional malnutrition cases and offering care to those in need.

Merlin’s Promise

Merlin will continue to work in the Turkana area for as long as we are needed.  Our teams will offer health and nutritional care to the families and communities that need us most.  

If you are able to offer more support, via a second or recurring gift, we are very grateful and promise to use the donation wisely and effectively to save lives.  Thank you.



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