By Eskedar Kifle
WARDER, SOMALI, 7 May 2017 – “It was very difficult in the beginning, but now we are receiving water and food from the Government. Our children have suffered from malnutrition,” says Deqa Osman, whose two children have suffered severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and are receiving medical follow ups. The 35-year-old mother of five says she was very happy with the medical attention that her children are receiving.
Like many others, Deqa and her family have lost their cattle-based livelihood due to the Horn of Africa drought that has displaced thousands. She now resides temporarily at the Qudh’le temporary resettlement site.
At the Qudh’le temporary resettlement site in Warder woreda (district) of Somali region, there are 500 children suffering from SAM that are receiving treatment at the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP), which is supported by UNICEF. The OTP has been instrumental in the recovery process for children with severe acute malnutrition who are unable to go to a hospital due to its distance from their site.
“There are wet feeding centres within the camp and there is sufficient food and water supplied by the Government but many children arrive here with issues related to malnutrition. The OTP has been extremely crucial for the survival of children,” explains Maryan Aydiid, the Government-appointed leader of the Qudh’le site.
UNICEF is carrying out several initiatives in response to acute malnutrition. These interventions include deploying a UNICEF-trained nutrition response team and awareness creation through communication for development (C4D) on the importance of breastfeeding.
“With UNICEF support, we carry out breastfeeding awareness creation activities in the camps, at the [OTP] and other strategic places. The mothers understand how important it is,” Maryan says.
UNICEF supports 29 mobile health and nutrition teams (MHNT) in the Somali region, which are deployed as an extension of the health delivery system to reach remote and vulnerable populations. Each team consists of five health staff and a driver to provide a range of basic emergency services such as treatment for severe and moderate acute malnutrition for children and women, maternal health services, immunization , as well as hygiene promotion, among others. On average, the MHNTs have 1,400 medical and 70 nutrition consultations every month. UNICEF provides training, monitoring, technical support and the provision of medical and nutrition supplies, such as the 4,000 cartons of ready-to-use-therapeutic-foods (RUTF) supplied in the first four months of 2017.
“My son was critically ill due to SAM and he was discharged from the hospital after receiving medical care. I have not been able to breastfeed him as I have also been sick, and now he is sick again with no appetite. We will need to return to the hospital,” says Saynaba Sahene, a 20-year-old mother of three. Her son, experiencing his second bout of SAM, is only 18 months old.
In this protracted drought period in one of the most remote regions of Ethiopia, challenges persist. Gaps of human and material resources remain an issue and the effects of long-term drought have exhausted the capacity of Government and local partners. With funds from international donors, UNICEF can continue supporting Government interventions and therefore the resilience of the community and its support systems.