A spike in number of children malnutrition cases has been observed in Somali Red Crescent (SRCS) health clinics, in particular in Beledweyne, Guriel and Baidoa. The rise in food prices and the loss of income triggered by COVID-19 raise fears that food insecurity and malnutrition are increasing in the country.
Fatuma Hassan, 32, is a mother of six children. She has been visiting the clinic with her one-year old daughter, Sumaya Abdi, who is suffering from severe acute malnutrition. She walks from a displacement camp on the outskirts of Baidoa town to seek assistance at the clinic. Sumaya has been receiving care at the outpatient program for four weeks and provided with Plumpy' Sup, a nutritional supplement.
"I am the breadwinner for my family. Some days I get small jobs, others I don't, it depends. Sometimes I don't have any money to buy food for my family. COVID-19 has made it difficult to find jobs and money to buy food," she says.
Like Fatuma, mothers with malnourished children are streaming to the SRCS clinic in Baidoa, one of the few places in the area to treat malnutrition.
"We have seen high numbers of malnutrition cases in the past months. This is because the price of commodities has gone up and, with low or no income vulnerable households are unable to buy food," says Mukhtar Mohamed, the head nurse at the clinic. A monthly average of 180 children under five years and 75 pregnant and lactating women (PLW) come for consultations at the clinic.
The ICRC and the SRCS has enlarged its nutrition coverage by 75% through the increase of target supplementary feeding programmes in eight static and six mobiles TSFP centers. Over 20,000 malnourished children under five years and more than 7,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women were treated with Plumpy' Sup and Super cereal plus compared to 11,900 for the whole year in 2019.
It is likely that the numbers of malnutrition cases will continue to climb in the next months as the country still reels from violence, conflict, floods and locusts, on top of COVID-19 complications.