Friday, 9 Dec 2022

‘We Buried Him and Kept Walking’: Children Die as Somalis Flee Hunger

DOOLOW, Somalia — When her crops failed and her parched goats died, Hirsiyo Mohamed left her home in southwestern Somalia, carrying and coaxing three of her eight children on the long walk across a bare and dusty landscape in temperatures as high as 100 degrees.

Along the way, her 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Adan, tugged at her robe, begging for food and water. But there was none to give, she said. “We buried him, and kept walking.”

They reached an aid camp in the town of Doolow after four days, but her malnourished 8-year-old daughter, Habiba, soon contracted whooping cough and died, she said. Sitting in her makeshift tent last month, holding her 2-and-half-year-old daughter, Maryam, in her lap, she said, “This drought has finished us.”

The worst drought in four decades is imperiling lives across the Horn of Africa, with up to 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia facing the risk of starvation by the end of this year, according to the World Food Program.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is exacerbating the situation, cutting off most of the wheat imports that Somalia depends on, and sharply increasing the prices of fuel, food and fertilizer.

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

Doctors and nurses in Somalia are racing against time to save children from starvation because of the drought sweeping the country.

In the hospitals and clinics I visited, here’s how medical workers were saving babies →

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

0:05
Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

They begin by checking a baby’s weight and height to see if they’re malnourished.

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

They use a special tape to measure the circumference of a child’s left upper arm. Red means extremely malnourished.

At least 386,000 Somali children face “severe acute malnutrition,” according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

Many children, listless and wasting away from hunger, are admitted to special treatment units. Some suffer from diseases like cholera, malaria and measles.

Babies without strength or appetite receive oxygen, and milk through a nasal tube.

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

Many children receive packets of sweet, peanut-based paste called Plumpy’Nut to help them recover.

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

After almost two weeks at a health clinic, baby Asha was improving and her flaking skin was healing.

“Look at her,” said her mother, Khadija Mohamed. “She’s doing so much better.”

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

0:21
Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

The drought has left up to 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia at risk of starvation.

The crisis in Somalia remains the most dire, with nearly half the population, many of them displaced, facing acute food shortages.

Saving Somalia’s Starving Babies

Abdi Latif Dahir📍Reporting from Somalia

Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

Medical workers don’t have enough room for all these malnourished children. But they are also celebrating every child they save.

“We are worried, but we are here to help,” said Dr. Aweis Olow, head of the the pediatric department at Mogadishu’s Benadir Hospital.

Read more on Somalia’s food crisis:



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