Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis

by Save the Children Federation
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Emerg Nutrition & Health Care, East Africa Crisis
Merlin Elbur Maternal & Child clinic, Ceelbuur
Merlin Elbur Maternal & Child clinic, Ceelbuur

Adbia's story:

“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.

Nurses at work in Merlin Elgaras Clinic
Nurses at work in Merlin Elgaras Clinic
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Lokarach Amuria at Lodwar stabilization center
Lokarach Amuria at Lodwar stabilization center

It has been over one year now since Merlin initiated its nutrition and health care services in response to the East Africa Food Crisis.  You are one of over 390 donors Global Giving donors that so far, have kindly supported our emergency work. Between you, nearly $21,500 has been raised toward the open target of $25,000.  So in this holiday season of thanks we would like to share with you what you generosity has actually helped us to accomplish.


Those Helped by You through Merlin’s Work 


Nursing Lokarach back to health

One year old Lokarach was referred to a Merlin stabilization center after being diagnosed as severely malnourished. 

Lokarach’s family are pastoralists, whose livelihoods depend on their livestock. The drought hit the family hard, as they lost the majority of their goats and Lokarach’s mother died.  His father, Kebo, was concerned that Lokarach’s life was also in danger.

Kebo trekked for three days on foot with his eldest daughter in order to bring Lokarach to the Merlin stabilization center.

Merlin staff diagnosed Lokarach as suffering from not only severe malnutrition, but also a lower respiratory tract infection, gastroenteritis, malaria and dehydration.  Lokarach was nursed back to health the stabilization center and is now stable and due to be discharged onto a feeding program.


Feeding Phoebe

Rising food prices following the drought didn’t just affect families that were dependent on livestock. Phoebe Ekaran’s mother, Miriam, weaved mats and roofing materials for a living, but rising food made purchasing food a challenge. Miriam brought her four year old daughter, Phoebe, to a Merlin clinic when she became ill with diarrhea and vomiting.

Phoebe was identified as being severely malnourished and suffering from malaria.  She was treated for malaria and fed Plumpy Nut, a high-energy, nutrient-rich food substitute, eventually being discharged after four months of treatment.

Her mother thought that Phoebe would never regain her strength or weight and was astonished by her recovery.


Saving Lokato's life

Lokato was admitted to a Merlin feeding program when she was nine months old with severe malnutrition. She was also diagnosed with malaria and gastroenteritis.

Her mother, Sarah, says that when the drought hit, their family of seven (herself, her husband and five children) were constantly hungry.  Previously they had sheep that they could sell, along with milk and meat but they their livestock died last summer.  Sarah began weaving mats for a living, making around 100 Kenya Shillings (less than one dollar) a month.  When Lokato became ill and refused to breast feed, Sarah thought she was dying.

After being given medication, supplies of Plumpy Nut, and attending consultations every two weeks for a month, Lokato was discharged and placed on a feeding program.  Now aged one year and eight months, Lokato is now a healthy, playful child.


Treating Benson for Malnutrition

Despite his mother working as a maid and his father as a security guard, Benson Ekutan’s parents struggled to pay for food after prices rocketed.  Benson was admitted to a stabilization center with a case of severe acute malnutrition with complications.

Severely dehydrated, Benson was put on an intravenous drip and screened by Merlin’s clinical officer for malnutrition. He was also diagnosed with malaria.  After three days of being fed a therapeutic milk formula he began to improve. After a total of seven days he was discharged to a feeding program where he received Plumpy Nut, for one month.

When Benson was brought into the clinic, Benson was unable to sit upright due to lack of strength. Now he can crawl, stand and is starting to try and walk.


Thank you for your support.

Phoebe Ekaran, Turkana, Kenya
Phoebe Ekaran, Turkana, Kenya
Lokato Ilipete, Turkana, Kenya
Lokato Ilipete, Turkana, Kenya
Benson Ekutan, Turkana, Kenya
Benson Ekutan, Turkana, Kenya
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A health and nutrition session, Turkana
A health and nutrition session, Turkana

What you helped us to achieve over the last six months....

Thanks to your generosity, Merlin has been able to continue to respond with nutrition and health care services to families who are still very much in need of assistance.  Although the threat of thousands of children dying each week had decreased, due to unpredictable rainfall and therefore bad harvests, rising cases of malnutrition and disease are still very much a threat. 

You are one of over 320 donors GlobalGiving donors that so far, have kindly supported our emergency work in response to the East Africa Food Crisis.

Between you, nearly $20,000 has been raised.  This is a fantastic achievement.  However, with the ongoing concerns and our teams now planning to continue the emergency response activities for at least another 6 months, the appeal will remain open with a new target of $25,000. 

Thank you so much for your wonderful support of Merlin’s work in East Africa.

Spotlight on Kenya


The food security situation in Turkana, an arid, remote region in the north west of Kenya, has shown improvement in the past year, particularly following significant above-average rains at the end of 2011 and in April 2012.

Improved availability of milk, more internal and external trade agreements and humanitarian aid has also resulted in an improvement in the nutrition levels of the children, which has meant that the proportion of children at risk from malnutrition has decreased significantly.

Turkana North East, which was the most affected district during the drought at the start of 2011, reported a large reduction in general malnutrition rates from 37.4% to 13.7% at the end of 2011, and the rates for children with the most severe, acute malnutrition also fell from 9.4% to 3.2%.

Unfortunately, current malnutrition rates still hover around the “emergency” threshold in many of Turkana's districts and failed harvests have meant there is a threat of these rates rising again over the next few months. In response to the continued crisis, Merlin has expanded its support to include a further 30 health facilities and now serves a total of 72 outreach sites.

Some of Merlin’s activities over the last 6 months

  • More than 50,000 children and their families have been treated.
  • Ten nutrition storage facilities have been built.
  • Five solar fridges have been bought, enabling Merlin staff to safely store vaccines and drugs.
  • Over 865 outreach clinics have taken place.  Nine vehicles cover the 72 sites, each site being visited twice a month
  • Continued on-the-job training of local, outreach staff.
  • Outreach teams have purchased more equipment for the clinics, including height and weight boards used for the screening of malnutrition cases.
  • Local staff, including 35 district health staff and 115 community health workers have been trained, and three Community Health Units established.
  • Merlin has distributed medical kits and bicycles to community health workers to enable them continue to offer health services to local families.
  • Severe cases requiring specialized care (i.e. TB or HIV positive patients) are referred to specialized clinics.
  • Counseling is being offered to the guardians of those children admitted to the Stabilisation Units (these are the children that have the severest cases of malnutrition), who are at a great risk of dying, and are offered hourly, intensive care at the Unit.

Merlin responded immediately to the East Africa food crisis, and expanded our health care program rapidly.  Pregnant women, young children, the sick and the elderly continue to benefit from comprehensive health, nutrition and water and sanitation programs that have been tailored to the needs of the local people.

Merlin’s approach to work with the community has seen the revival of health structures and the provision of vital skills in communities, which will help with future emergency situations.

Through this on-going program, as we look towards a longer-term recovery approach, Merlin continues to save lives and rebuild and strengthen the health care system. 

Thank you for your support.

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Napeyok and her mom
Napeyok and her mom

With your gifts on Global Giving, we have raised $15,000 towards Merlin’s emergency response to the food crisis in East Africa.  Unfortunately, the crisis continues and our teams are now planning response activities into 2013.  This means that we still need your support, and our next target is to reach $20,000.


Napeyok’s mom thanks you for caring

Merlin has been providing nutrition services in Kerio, Turkana since 2006. As part of our response to the food crisis, last June activities in Kerio’s health facility were scaled up, and community health workers began conducting outreach visits to communities, up to six miles from the facility. 

One baby identified by the health workers as severely malnourished, was eight month old Napeyok (see photo).  She was referred immediately to Merlin’s outpatient therapeutic feeding program at Kerio’s health facility.  At the time, Napeyok weighed 7.9lbs and had a mid-upper-arm circumference of 4.2” (a measurement of 4.3” or below indicates that a child is suffering from severe acute malnutrition). She was also suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, and tested positive for malaria.

Napeyok’s mother, Veronica Ipoo Esirete (pictured with Napeyok), had been raising six children alone in a village near to Kerio.  She used to own 30 goats – the family’s source of food and livelihood, but the severe drought led to the depletion of green pastures and the death of the goats.  Veronica became unable to provide breast milk (due to being malnourished herself) for the youngest children and with a continued lack of food; soon the whole family were suffering from various degrees of malnourishment.

Once Merlin began caring for Napeyok, her condition steadily improved.  She was given medication and supplies of PlumpyNut (a highly nutritious peanut butter paste packed with calories and vitamins, especially formulated to help nourish children) by Merlin health workers and her mom brought her to the clinic every week for check ups. By November, Napeyok was still malnourished, but only moderately so, and was transferred to a supplementary feeding program – where children are given regular meals of corn-soya blend (a fortified porridge).  In January of this year, Napeyok was finally discharged from the feeding program completely.

Napeyok is now 16 months old, and her family has moved in with relatives in Kerio who share their meals of beans and maize in return for Veronica fetching firewood and water. It is a temporary solution, but ensures that the family does not go hungry, and allows the family to begin building up thier livestock again. 

Veronica says thank you and adds, if it were not for Merlin, Napeyok, who was so weak and is always vulnerable to illnesses, would not have survived.

Also… Do you think Merlin is doing a good job?

If you love our work, then tell the world! You have an exciting opportunity to help Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International) make even more of a difference. GreatNonprofits - a site like Amazon Book Reviews or TripAdvisor - is a website where people can share their stories about nonprofits that they really believe in.

 Will you help us raise visibility and support for our life saving work by posting a review of about us?

 All reviews will be visible to potential donors and volunteers. It's easy and only takes a few minutes.  Please go to:

http://greatnonprofits.org/organizations/reviews/medical-emergency-relief-international-usa-inc and log your comment.

With your help, we can increase awareness, gain visibility and raise support for our health and nutrition care in east Africa and around the world.

Thank you from everyone at Merlin.

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Food distribution @ Sheikh Aliawhar Clinic Somalia
Food distribution @ Sheikh Aliawhar Clinic Somalia

The Food Crisis, East Africa

In June last year, the worst drought in 60 years put more than ten million people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia at risk of starvation. 

Malnutrition rates reached a devastatingly high level.  Famine was declared in some regions of Somalia, and 37.4% children in remote parts of Kenya suffered from Global Acute Malnutrition - the World Health Organisation’s emergency threshold is 15%.

Merlin’s Response

Merlin had already been running programs in all three countries for many years before the drought set in, and so were strongly positioned to scale up immediately.  Merlin teams increased vaccination, health and nutrition programs to care for over 1.7 million people within weeks.

In the following months, Merlin has supported 222 health facilities and 114 outreach sites and mobile clinics delivering emergency nutrition and primary health care to remote and vulnerable communities affected by malnutrition and diseases that prey on the weak.



Merlin teams have offered nutritional care, health services and supported health facilities and outreach sites in two regions of Somalia.  In the politically sensitive and often insecure South Central region, Merlin is the only health agency on the ground.  Maintaining positive relationships with local authorities and communities has enabled teams to continue to offer health care and nutrition to those most in need without bias. 

Key Stats

602,000 people offered access to Merlin’s emergency health and nutrition services

42 outreach sites and 17 health facilities supported by Merlin

655 tons of therapeutic and supplementary food distributed

44,883 children screened for malnutrition

2,521 children under five & 506 pregnant and breastfeeding women part of therapeutic feeding program



A force of almost 3,000 health workers and volunteers were trained by Merlin to identify cases of malnutrition among children, pregnant women and new mothers in some of the most remote villages of Oromia and Somali regions, south east Ethiopia. Teams have also raised awareness on hygiene and sanitation, and why these are important aspects in remaining healthy.  

Key Stats

 527,834 people have access to Merlin-supported health and nutrition services

217 health facilities and 40 outreach sites supported by Merlin

40,629 children screened for malnutrition

778 tons of therapeutic and supplementary food supplies distributed

11,059 children under five & 11,546 pregnant and breastfeeding women part of therapeutic feeding program



Key Stats

 485,000 people have access to Merlin-supported health and nutrition services

30 health facilities and 70 outreach sites supported by Merlin

52,134 children screened for malnutrition

11,059 children under five & 11,546 pregnant and breastfeeding women part of therapeutic feeding program

112, 801 offered consultations and treatment for diseases

Chip Bartlett, Merlin's Country Director for Kenya says:

“Merlin has been working in Turkana since 2004, but I have never seen such catastrophic levels of malnutrition as I saw last June. Over a third of all children under five in the Horn of Africa were severely malnourished, and in grave danger of dying. We quickly scaled up the number of static and mobile clinics we support by over 75%.  The need was almost overwhelming. Now, acute malnutrition in children under five in Turkana has more than halved from 30% to 14%.

Another drought looks likely this year. Merlin is committed to providing for the long term, so we are maintaining this expanded coverage and working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to analyze early warning indicators and plan a coordinated response in the event of another crisis.”

                        Thank you for supporting Merlin's activities in East Africa.

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Organization Information

Save the Children Federation

Location: Fairfield, CT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @savethechildren
Project Leader:
Penelope Crump
Westport, CT United States

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