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Millions of people in the Horn of Africa are in urgent need of health and food aid due to the region’s worst drought in almost 40 years. In Somalia, Trócaire runs the health service in Gedo, a region slightly larger than the size of Ireland. On this World Health Day, we bring you a story of hope, thanks to the committed Trócaire team.
Baby Mohamed lies in an incubator in the Dollow Referral Hospital in Dollow District, Gedo Region in southern Somalia.
He was born in February at 28 weeks, weighing just 1.5 kilograms and barely clinging to life.
His mother gave birth to Mohamed in the Kabasa Camp for Internally Displaced Persons but was rushed to hospital where she sadly died of complications from her labour. The family moved from their home to the camp three months due to ongoing drought fuelled by climate change.
After his birth Mohamed was monitored in an incubator in the hospital, under the care of Trócaire’s Nursing Coordinator, Habiba Ali Maalim. Within a week of his birth his weight had increased to 1.95 kgs. He was going to make it.
The incubator provided warmth, while the care team did feeds with formula milk using a cup and spoon every three hours. He was turned regularly to avoid pressure sores, and his weight closely monitored.
The health team used the Kangaroo Mother care method on Mohamed. This is a body-to-body contact procedure performed once or twice a day for one to two hours to help premature babies bond with his or her parents.
The nurses at the hospital provided Baby Mohamed with Kangaroo care once a day, His father did likewise when he is able to get to the hospital from the IDP camp. He has to care for his other son, Hamza aged 18 months, at home.
Baby Mohamed is one success story amidst the devastating hunger crisis driven by climate change and drought that is looming in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The impact of the war in Ukraine is worsening the devastating food crisis for millions of people in this region.
Around 14 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are already in urgent need of aid due to the region’s worst drought in almost 40 years. The failure of three successive rainy seasons has destroyed livelihoods and forced families to leave their homes in search of food and water.
Now, staple foods such as wheat are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive as trade routes from Ukraine and Russia are severely disrupted. Many countries in the region usually import 60-80 per cent of their wheat from Ukraine. With these imports disrupted, the price of bread and other staple foods is rapidly rising, affecting the poorest families most of all.
Humanitarian agencies’ limited funds are being stretched further as prices rise.
Currently 7.7 million people in Somalia, or half the population, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 4.3 million people are now severely affected by one of the worst droughts in the last 40 years.
Over 554,000 people have already fled their homes, flocking to already overcrowded Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. That number is expected to rise to 1.4 million in the coming months.
Trócaire Somalia Country Manager, Paul Healy, says it is devastating to witness what is happening on the ground. ‘Severe hunger has taken hold and it will get much worse in the coming months unless urgent action is taken’.
He says maternal and child health is a huge challenge, compounded by the current growing hunger crisis. Trócaire’s team of doctors and healthcare workers has been the main healthcare provider in the Gedo region for over 30 years, providing services to 19,000 people every month and educating over 4,000 children.
At the Dollow referral health centre Trócaire teams deliver an average of 110 babies. Typically they are discharged within 24 hours unless they are ill or premature, like baby Mohamed.
There are thousands of children like Mohamed in Somalia, and the horn of Africa. “These are times of great hunger. Children are the most vulnerable. There is limited access to food, and food prices are rising, predisposing families and their children to severe malnutrition,” says Paul Healy.
“Climate change is wreaking havoc. Severe water shortages have heightened the risk of disease outbreaks, with people and animals now competing for untreated water from hand-dug shallow wells and dwindling rivers.” “Cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea/Cholera, and outbreaks of measles, are on the rise in multiple drought-affected locations. There are witnessed accounts of IDP populations feeding on animal carcases at night, creating a further severe risk of disease.”
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