Parents struggle to bring malnourished children from Lower Juba villages to health centrePhoto | Baby Salmo Aden being treated for malnutrition in Dhobley/Ahmed Abdu Mohamed/Ergo
(ERGO) - Eight-month-old Salmo Aden, being nourished through a nasal feeding tube, is looking brighter than she did when she was brought by her mother to Waamo mother and child health centre in Dhobley town four days ago.
Lul Omar, cradling her baby daughter, said Salmo had been sick since 19 October and becoming progressively weaker, but she had been unable to bring her to town because she had no money.
Lul’s family lost 80 goats and 50 cows in August and September due to the drought affecting parts of Somalia's southwestern Lower Juba region. Their remaining 50 goats were too thin and weak to sell. It took her a while before she could get 300,000 Somali Shillings ($15) from some relatives to pay for transport to Dhobley from their village Qoqani, 60 km away.
Lul described to Radio Ergo’s reporter how hard it had been for her to get enough nourishment herself in order to feed her baby. She had been staying hungry for long periods due to the shortage of food in the village.
“My first born daughter was not getting any breast milk from me, because for the whole day I was only eating some sorghum or maize just once,” she said.
Salmo is among 115 children under the age of five currently being treated in the centre for malnutrition. They have come in from villages between Dhobley and Afmadow towns over the past two weeks.
Jalle Ibrahim Yarow, a nurse at Waamo, said they had admitted 84 children this week. In total in October, the centre has treated 496 cases of malnutrition in children mostly under the age of five.
Ahmed Hilowle Maalim told Radio Ergo he brought his two-year-old daughter to the centre by donkey cart from Kalimaha village, 30 km away. The journey took more than five hours.
Radio Ergo’s reporter met many people at the health centre who had walked long distances to bring their children for help. They all spoke of more sick children at home in their villages whose parents had no money to transport them to the town.
Waamo, a local NGO supported by UNICEF, provides free health services at the clinic. Hussein Aden Hassan, Waamo’s malnutrition prevention officer, said the rise in cases of malnutrition was caused by food shortages resulting from drought after poor rains in the past two years.
The worst affected villages are Gomara, Ali-bulay, Dif, and Dagmarer, where pastoralist families have lost large numbers of livestock.