47 children die from hunger-related diseases in Mogadishu hospital as youngsters bear brunt of drought
Forty-seven children have died from hunger-related ailments in Banaadir Hospital in the Somali capital over the last two months, according to the head of the hospital’s pediatric unit, Dr. Luul Mohamud Mohamed.
At least 1,200 children were treated for severe malnutrition at the medical facility in the same period.
“Support is coming late and these drought affected populations already have diarrhoea, they have malnutrition and are already losing lives,” Dr. Luul said.
“What we need is early support”.
The water sources have dried up due to the prolonged drought in Somalia, forcing thousands to drink contaminated water as living conditions deteriorate.
A visit to the pediatric wing of Banaadir hospital revealed overcrowded wards with critically ill children clinging to life, as their parents wait for any medical intervention.
“My child got sick and I brought him to this hospital. He was received well and he is feeling much better now,” said Nawaal Hassan Wehliye, a mother of a seven-month-old boy who is receiving in-patient treatment.
Her son is among the lucky patients. Dr. Luul said some of the children arrive at the facility too late to be saved. In some of the most desperate cases, the hospital administration has resorted to feeding the children in order to stabilize their condition before releasing them back to their families.
“We provide for the stabilization of the child because the main cause of death is dehydration. We do rehydration of the child and we also give antibiotics because we suspect cholera”, she explained.
The large number of critically malnourished children being admitted to the 200-bed government-run hospital is overwhelming.
The hospital receives patients from as far away as Somalia’s Bakool region -- which is more than 350 kilometres from Mogadishu -- Lower Shabelle region, and from internally displaced persons’ camps around the capital.
Across the city, in the Mogadishu district of Hodan, a local non-governmental organization called the Somali Relief and Rehabilitation Development Organization runs a wet feeding centre, where vulnerable children and the elderly receive free food.
Mohamud Mohamed Wehliye has been receiving food at the centre for the last six years. But the 70-year-old Wehliye is worried that the influx of drought victims to the Somali capital will deplete food stocks at the centre.
“I have seven young children from my second wife. My family and I live in an internally displaced persons’ camp and we come to this centre every day for food,” said the frail looking man.
“We are fed twice a day, and it is the only source of food we have,” he added.
The number of people seeking meals at the centre has increased substantially in the last few months, as demonstrated by the long queues of hungry children and old people forming outside the facility in search of food.
On Tuesday, Antonio Guterres visited Somalia in his first foreign trip as UN Secretary-General to assess the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa country. Severe drought has driven away thousands of people from their villages and communities in pursuit of food and water in urban areas.
The Secretary-General made a plea for increased support from the international community to mitigate the effects of the drought, which many fear will degenerate into full-blown famine if swift and effect intervention is not carried out.