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A happy ending in Somalia: Malnourished Mohamed made well

27th Apr 2011

Fadumo's son Mohamed's severe sickness is almost over following treatment implemented by Oxfam and SAACID.

In a land known for sad stories, here's one with a happy ending.

"I came here after my son, Mohamed, became very sick about two months ago," said Fadumo, a 30-year-old mother of five in Mogadishu. Less than a year old, Mohamed was suffering from severe diarrhoea, leaving him very frail. "The watery diarrhea stopped, but he was still thin and weak, and not able to eat or drink anything."

Since crippling drought has made clean water in Somalia less available than before, hospitals are seeing a spike in children admitted with severe diarrhoea and malnutrition. With food shortages and little health care available, one of every six children in Somalia dies before they reach the age of five.

"My husband is currently unemployed," Fadumo continues. With little work available because of the drought and the conflict, Fadumo's family had no money to seek treatment for Mohamed. "Our life now depends on what my husband's brothers give us. In fact, it is not enough for us, but it is our only support now."

Mohamed was drastically underweight for his age, and a community health worker recognised the severity of his condition. "A SAACID outreach lady, who came to my home, told me that there was a centre which treats malnourished children in the district," said Fadumo. "She took me to the centre. When I came here, the nurses at the centre told me that Mohamed was ailing with malnutrition."

"When he was admitted to the program he was very thin," recalls Fadumo, "and I thought that he would never return to his standard weight, because he had stopped eating and drinking." She adds that when he was only two months old, Mohamed had already refused to be breastfed. "Since that time, he was sick and he never had good health for even one day."

Mohamed was admitted to SAACID's Community Therapeutic Care (CTC), a program implemented along with Oxfam in the Netherlands. Though seriously ill when he began treatment, his health improved. "After he began taking the special biscuits, he almost immediately began to eat and drink water and milk again," Fadumo said.

More than 240,000 children under five are malnourished in Somalia, and Mohamed was fortunate that the volunteer brought him into the therapeutic feeding program in time. During a usual course of treatment, severely malnourished children can remain outpatients in the CTC program for up to three months. If they have complications, they are referred to more specialised inpatient centers that provide constant 24-hour care and supervision. Fadumo and Mohamed before the treatment. Fadumo and Mohamed before the treatment.

Previously thin and listless, Mohamed began putting on weight as the days passed. He regained energy, and became more active. He even began smiling again.

"This health centre is clearly providing lifesaving care, and there is strong support in our neighbourhood for it," Fadumo said. "We all thank SAACID and its donors for this donation of life. We hope SAACID can continue supporting the sick malnourished children."

After two months in the severely malnourished outpatient program, Mohamed has made great progress. If his improvement continues, he will be released in the coming weeks.

Since beginning in 2009, the CTC program has treated more than 92,000 malnourished children and their mothers. SAACID's current caseload totals more than 15,000 malnourished children, which are being treated in eight CTC centers across Mogadishu. As of mid-April, the program is currently admitting more than 2,000 new malnourished children each week. This is largely due to the drought crisis in rural Somalia, which is driving more and more families into Mogadishu, where they seek food and employment to survive.

SAACID receives the financial support and training to run these specialised nutrition clinics for children from Oxfam Novib; while it receives in-kind donations from UNICEF and the World Food Program. Oxfam Novib is currently seeking major donors, in order to continue this life saving work for Somalia's children.

Oxfam's work in Somalia