Somalia is facing its worst drought in 40 years following a record fifth failed rainfall season, continued rise in food prices and conflict, which has left more than 7 million people- more than half of the country’s suffering from widespread hunger with a worrying number living on the verge of starvation. A famine could occur in parts of the country, where some 300,000 people are reported to be already living in famine-like conditions.
Widespread hunger and conflict have resulted in hundreds of children dying from lack of food and good nutrition, and more than half a million children under five years old suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Hamdi, seven (7) months old was brought to a World Vision nutrition clinic in Baidoa in South West State and upon screening, she was found to be severely malnourished. Covered with a shawl, her feet and hands were cold, skin wrinkled. There was not enough food in her tiny stomach to fuel her metabolism. When the doctors weighed her, she was only four (4) kilograms. On top of that, she had a severe cough from having measles that also caused her to cough nonstop. It was visibly evident that Hamdi was in pain. She also had severe diarrhoea. At the clinic, the doctors in charge said, Hamdi suffered from Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD).
Hamdi’s mother looked visibly worried, her eyes constantly scanning Hamdi. But she wasn’t alone. In the World Vision clinic, there was a long queue of mothers each holding their children- all coming to get help for their severely malnourished and sick children.
Before Hamdi was brought to the World Vision nutrition centre (funded by Global Affairs Canada), he had been admitted to a Government Stabilization Centre (this is where children with severe acute malnutrition cases and complications are looked after). This usually means the condition was extremely dire to be admitted at the SC.
At the facility in Baidoa, Hamdi alongside other children receives therapeutic care- a lifeline for children who could otherwise die.
After a medical examination, which included measuring the weight, height and the measurement of mid-upper arm circumference used to determine the severity of malnutrition, Hamdi was admitted into the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) that treats and looks after children with severe acute malnutrition. Once admitted, Hamdi is required to feed on Plumpy Nut (a highly nutritious paste) for a period of 12 weeks meant to keep children alive, help them gain weight lost from malnutrition and move them from severe acute malnutrition to modern acute malnutrition and onwards to full recovery.
Hamdi’s mother also visited the clinic for routine follow-ups and to replenish the Plumpy Nut supplies, this would happen until the doctors were sure she was fully recovered.
When World Vision paid a follow-up visit to Hamdi in August, a month later, her health had visibly improved and she weighed 5.2 kilogrammes. The severe cough had also cleared. The doctor and nutrition staff noted that she still suffered acute diarrhoea attributing this to the side effects of Plumpy Nut consumption which is normal.
“I feel optimistic and hopeful that my baby is doing well and her health is back on track," Habiibo Isak told World Vision staff, adding: “a month ago I felt helpless but now I see Hamdi will be well.”
To prevent children from being re-admitted with severe malnutrition for lack of food in their households, World Vision’s food and cash assistance programme often targets children like Hamdi to provide cash assistance and as such Habiibo (Hamdi’s mother) was registered to receive cash worth US$80 for a period of six months. This support is critical in preventing children from relapsing into malnutrition.