Somalilandsun - The drought in southern Somalia is having a devastating effect on families as I saw for myself in the border town of Dollow where large numbers are arriving in the camps for the displaced or crossing into refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia in the hope of finding assistance. Here I came across a mother and father pouring cold water on their 11 year old son Hussein who was too weak from hunger to sit up. They were hoping the water would revive him so they could continue their journey to find food.
The family had left their subdistrict called Ufurow in Bay region three days earlier and had travelled by truck with several other families to Doolow. They had little food to take on the long trip and Hussein’s parents felt he was old enough to go without food, and they should give the little they brought to his younger siblings.
His mother Timiro Aden said: “He is hungry that is why he cannot talk to you, the little food we got we have shared among the five younger children.”
As the crowds of the displaced and local traders walked past indifferently, the parents helped each other to wash Hussein. He was only half conscious and about to pass out so his mother supported him while his father pour cold water over his head and body. The child was completely naked propped up on a rock in the shade of a tree with displaced families waiting to be processed to cross to Ethiopia. His father, Aden Mohamed, told us: “If he is to die, he should die while clean.”
When we saw the child, Irene Obare, the UNICEF Nutrition Specialist rushed back to the car and fetched a bottle of drinking water from my bag. Hussein gulped mouthfuls of water as soon as his father touched the bottle to his mouth. Then the mother said again, “Hussein has not had food in three days”.
Spontaneously, Irene and Abdifatah Osman, UNICEF’s Emergency Specialist, rushed off and returned with boxes of biscuits and a sachet of nutritious peanut paste. We heard he had already been to hospital and I was sure he should return so Mohamed Hussein Abdi, the Doolow Humanitarian Liaison Officer called an ambulance which arrived in ten minutes.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Hussein had regained full consciousness and was worried that a few morsels of food had dropped from his mouth and asked for them to be given back. UNICEF staff carried him to the ambulance that took him back to hospital with his father while his mother remained with the other five children. We heard his father took him the next day to Doolow Adow in Ethiopia to join the rest of the family.
UNICEF supports interventions in in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, nutrition, health, education and child protection in the drought affected Gedo which includes Doolow District, Bay, Bakool, south Mudug, Galgaduud, Hiraan regions. The UNICEF team was in Doolow to finalise the plans for treating severely malnourished children in the Kabasa and Qansaxley camps for the internally displaced persons, a UNICEF project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and to explore the response to the needs of the internally displaced people in IDP camps or in transit through Doolow to refugees camps in Ethiopia.
The author Jayne Mbakaya, is Programme Manager, UNICEF central south Somalia.