Stoic and sombre mothers, including Habso’s, sit quietly with their seriously ill children, many of who have been admitted to this vital health facility on the brink of death.
There is the sound of small babies crying and an overall sense of gut-wrenching suffering. The children look curiously at the small group of visitors, who are a distraction. But most of the exhausted mothers stare ahead and don’t make eye contact.
In the grip of hunger
Trócaire staff are busy, going from bed to bed to check on the patients. Among them is Dr Shukri Hussein Abdi, a Somalian and the first ever female doctor employed by the Irish humanitarian agency which runs all of the health services in Gedo, a regional slightly bigger than the size of the island of Ireland. She is concerned about a new patient who has been admitted and she is consulting with the Trócaire programme manager, Dr Abdi Tari Ali.
Hunger has taken a grip on Somalia, which is experiencing its fourth successive season of drought, making it the worst in 40 years. With the rains falling, livestock have died and crops have withered. There is no food. Families are leaving their villages in their thousands and drifting towards towns and internally displaced persons camps to seek support.
Habso’s family left their village in Wajid Region, about 70 kilometres away, three months ago when the last of their goats died. Father Ibrahim Yarow (49) and mother Abshiro Adn Mohammad (35) walked for 20 days with their nine children, all already weak from a lack of food.
“Tragically, in their first week on the road, their two-year-old daughter Feizal, died in their arms”
We had no food or water setting out on our journey. When we came to a town we managed to get a little to eat and drink to allow us continue. But my daughter didn’t make it. She didn’t have enough food. The life left her. We had to bury her on the side of the road and continue the journey. We had to keep moving or we would have all died,” said Ibrahim.