The media, which gave scant attention to the humanitarian catastrophe in East Africa, has long since moved on to the next story. But, millions continue to suffer silently amid the regional food crisis brought about by prolonged drought and compounded by conflict and displacement.
Earlier this year, we launched a humanitarian appeal to support people affected by the ongoing drought crisis in East African countries Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.
The Irish public responded with incredible generosity, donating nearly €5 million to help their suffering brothers and sisters in East Africa. This was achieved despite a lack of media attention for this large scale crisis, that had put over 26 million people at risk of severe malnutrition, and in the worse cases, starvation.
Shamso Abdi Hussein is 40 years of age. She sits on the side of a bed in a Trócaire hospital in Somalia and holds her grandchild. His name is Ayanle Issaq and he is only four months old. He is a tiny baby and his eyes and little body show all of the hallmarks of hunger.
His mother was 18 years of age when she died in childbirth in a refugee camp. They had all fled the conflict in Southern Somalia and had arrived at the camp with what little they could carry.
Now Shamso is looking after her two grandchildren, Ayanle and his older brother Abdulahi. There is almost no time to grieve her daughter. She has to survive and go on for the sake of the others.
The war has taken everything and now this 18-month long drought has heaped misery upon misery.
She arrived at the hospital just six days ago. Little Ayanle had a fever, diarrhoea and a bacterial infection. He was also severely malnourished as a result of days without food. The staff at the hospital put him on antibiotics and on a special therapeutic milk.
A Trócaire nurse, Adar Muhammad Farrah feeds him six times a day. She says that the high vitamin milk is working and that little Ayanle is making progress. She thinks he will live and that he will make a full recovery. They will work with him until he does.
This is an everyday story in the Trócaire hospital in Dollow in Somalia. Hundreds queue every day for treatment, the devastation that drought and war showing in the children’s eyes.
At a far remove from the media spotlight, the Trócaire team responds, day after day, saving lives and making a real difference.
Sean Farrell is the Director of International Programmes at Trócaire.