Aid trickles into Somalia's drought hit Baidoa region as militant group Al-Shabaab moves out
By Eva Gilliam
BAIDOA, Somalia, 3 August 2012 - Until just three weeks ago, Nuriya Moallim and her family of nine children and grandchildren had managed to stay in their village in southern Somalia. Despite the failed rains and the drought of 2011, they persevere at home.
“A year ago we had food stores, so we stayed in our village,” explains Nuriya. “But now they are all used up - there is nothing left.”
The Gu, or spring rains, were below average in the southern regions of Somalia where Nuriya and her family farm sorghum, a staple crop in the country. Without the prospect of a successful harvest, she was forced to leave and bring her family to live at the Salameyidale Internally Displaced Persons Camp near the main town of Baidoa to find assistance.
“In addition to the dried up stores, my grandchild is very sick,” she says. “So I came to look for help.” Nuriya is not alone. Many people from the area have started coming to Baidoa since the militant group Al-Shabaab left the town in February.
Fleeing the inscecurity
“People are coming for two reasons,” says Sheik Aftin Alyow Kusinow, the chief of Salameyidale Camp. “They are fleeing the insecurity in areas where there is still violence or the fear of Al-Shabaab and they are in a horrible state of food insecurity. Even people from here who went to Mogadishu last year are coming back. But here there is no medical care and the nearest water is four kilometres away in town. Even then we have to pay 5000 Somali shillings (3 US dollars)."
At the Baidoa Regional Hospital, supported by UNICEF, Nurse Faiza Hassan Abdullahi has been seeing a steady increase of patients in the hospital, including many children suffering from malnutrition. Al-Shabaab is still active in surrounding areas, but its departure from Baidoa has made access to the town possible for many.
“Last year the situation was worse, but at least then we could access people outside of the town,” she said. “But now, since there is no access for us to go out, people are starting to come either here or to Dollow [another internally displaced persons camp].”
In the last week alone, she has admitted 25 new cases into the therapeutic feeding programme, which provides malnourished children with regular supplies of enriched peanut-paste to take home, along with other treatment. The children in the programme return to the hospital regularly and are monitored closely.
Fiday Isak came by truck to Baidoa with her two-year-old daughter Suleqa. Suleqa has been ill for most of her young life. The 90-kilometre journey to Baidoa was a last resort to find treatment for sickness and her severe acute malnutrition. “When she was three months old, she started getting sick,” explains Fiday. “ She had fever, vomiting, diarrhoea – she had no appetite. Today, she is still sick. I tried to find medical assistance in private pharmacies in my village, but nothing worked. That is why I came here – to find proper medical care.”
Different stages of recovery
She and her daughter are now staying in the hospital’s stabilization unit, a ward of 18 beds for children with life-threatening malnutrition, where Suleqa receives carefully monitored amounts of milk and food. Around them sit other mothers and fathers, cradling their children in different stages of recovery.
“I came here alone with my daughter just to get her help. I don’t know anyone one here,” said Fiday. “As soon as she is better, we will go home.”
Medical care is nearly impossible to find in many parts of Somalia. The Baidoa Regional Hospital is the only health facility in the area, and has a small mobile unit that makes visits to Salameyidale IDP camp for vaccinations. But the camp is still lacking in all other medical care.
With the recent access to Baidoa opening up, UNICEF can begin reinforcing medical care at the Baidoa Regional Hospital and other essential services to save children’s lives.