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Somalia: Fighting the ravages of child hunger with community health centres

Thousands of children are facing starvation as families are forced to flee their homes

Trócaire's community health workers conducting health screenings in Dollow, Somalia. Photo: Trócaire Trócaire's community health workers conducting health screenings in Dollow, Somalia. Photo: Trócaire

Two-year-old Mohamed Abdi lives with his family in a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in the Dollow District of Gedo, Somalia.

Like thousands of others, Mohamed and his family were displaced from their home and are living in temporary settlements that often lack access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities, and adequate food supplies.

These conditions further exacerbate their vulnerability making them more susceptible to health issues such as malnutrition and infectious diseases.

Earlier this year, Mohamed was screened by Trócaire community health workers and was found to have severe malnutrition. He received treatment through an out-patient programme but his condition deteriorated. He was brought to the Trócaire-run Dollow Referral Health Centre where he was admitted and treated for pneumonia.

Unfortunately, Mohamed’s story is not unique in the Kahare and Qansaxley camps for IDPs in Dollow, where more than 10,000 people live. In partnership with the Caafimaad plus Consortium, Trócaire operates a mobile clinic that delivers essential healthcare services to IDPs (and hard-to-reach areas) in Kahare and Qansaxley IDP camps. In 2022, Trócaire supported more than 270,000 people with health, nutrition, and protection services.

This initiative is made possible through funding from ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations), enabling the provision of life-saving medical assistance.

The services offered by the Mobile Clinics in the communities encompass outpatient consultations, health education sessions, community sensitization, and referrals facilitated by trained Community Health Workers (CHWs).

The dedicated CHWs conduct door-to-door visits in these areas to identify illnesses, educate the communities, provide treatments, and refer severe cases to healthcare facilities for further medical intervention.

Out-patient services at the Kabasa IDP camp mobile clinic in Dollow, Somalia. Photo: Trócaire Out-patient services at the Kabasa IDP camp mobile clinic in Dollow, Somalia. Photo: Trócaire

When Ruqiyo’s two-year-old son fell ill and developed a fever and pneumonia, the CHWs in her village assessed her son’s condition and determined that it was a mild case and could be managed at the community level.

The child received community-based case management and treatment, which involved the administration of antibiotics and paracetamol syrup. The CHWs closely monitored the child’s condition through home visits until he made a full recovery.

Ruqiyo acknowledged that the intervention was truly lifesaving, not only for her child but also for the others in her village.

“I’m very pleased with the services provided by the CHWs to my child. It was truly a life-saving intervention for my child and the other communities in our village,” said Ruqiyo.

Another mother in the camps, Muslimo, expressed her gratitude to Trocaire’s health team, attributing her daughter Axada’s remarkable progress to their interventions.

Her daughter was screened with severe malnutrition at her village and linked to a health facility where she received nutrition supplies and treatment through out-patient services. Muslimo also received valuable education regarding other services available at the health facilities, including healthy child spacing, postnatal care (PNC) services, infant and young child feeding (IYCF), and hygiene practices, among other essential topics.

“My daughter’s condition improved as a result of Trócaire’s health team interventions, and my family and I am grateful for their assistance. I am aware of other health and nutrition services at the health facilities, such as healthy child spacing, PNC services, IYCF, and cleanliness practises,” said Muslimo.

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