In the midst of famine, children survive with the help of Oxfam partner SAACID

By Oxfam and SAACID

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At a nutrition center opened a few months ago in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, Sahro, a 40-year-old mother of five children, tells of the suffering her family has endured as the drought sweeping East Africa slowly destroyed their animals and small farm.

A long trek from the outskirts of the Baidoa in Bay Region brought the family here—to a new camp for displaced people called Booli Qaran, which, ironically, means “looted wealth of the state.”

It’s here that Oxfam’s partner, SAACID, has opened another center for community therapeutic care, or CTC, one of 14 the organization is now operating across the city. And it’s here that Sahro’s son, Ahmed, has been receiving care following months of sickness that left him increasingly weak.

“I really don’t know exactly what is wrong with him, but I think the problem is linked to hunger,” says Sahro. “This nutrition center is extremely important for us. Without it, hundreds of children would have already died from malnutrition.”

Implemented in partnership with Oxfam, the CTC program has been treating children since 2009. It is now admitting more than 3,000 malnourished children, like Ahmed, every week.

“We were displaced after drought killed all the animals we had. We had goats and some cattle; we also had a small farm which we cultivated in order to sustain our lives; but unfortunately there has been no rain at all, and this caused everything to die,” says Sahro.

“We endured a very difficult trip from Bay to Mogadishu, because we traveled on foot for almost 155 miles. I was carrying my sick child on my back, while my husband was carrying another child who is older than my youngest. We begged from Bay to Mogadishu—from district to district and from village to village, for food and water. In reality, we were very lucky to survive. We know of so many families who have lost relatives or children. We thank Allah, who has allowed us to come to Mogadishu together and survive.”

Opened on July 12, the Booli Qaran camp was established for rural families flooding the capital in search of food, services and employment. More than 5,000 people now live here in difficult conditions. The day after the camp opened, SAACID set up a CTC center, which, like the others it operates across the city, have been working hard to save lives.

Care for triplets

Ambiyo, a mother of triplets, knows well how important the centers are. She brought her triplets—daughters Qaali and Naciimo, and son Abdirisaq—to one of them recently. Qaali was immediately referred to the SAACID’s outpatient therapeutic program section at the clinic, when she was found to be severely malnourished and in need of immediate treatment. Ambiyo notes that her daughter was in a state of complete frailty back then.

Her other 2 children—Abdirisaq and Naciimo—were placed into the supplemental feeding program section, which treats moderately malnourished children. As treatment has continued over two months, they have all been recovering.

“All of my triplets were weak, especially Qaali, who was so weak and sick and refused to breastfeed at all,” says Ambiyo. “The other two were weak and thin, but still breastfeeding. I was so worried that Qaali wasn’t going to make it. We were well received when I first came to the clinic and the nurses immediately said that they could help us.”

“Our daily life depends on what my husband earns with his work as a barber, and that is not enough for such a large family,” says Ambiyo. “I hope my triplets will recover from the sickness arising from malnutrition problems, especially Qaali who is the weakest. So far, so good.”

SAACID’s senior staff and management lived through the last great Somali famine of 1991-1992, and find this new crisis heartbreaking.

SAACID-Somalia’s Country Director, Raha Janaqow, said, “I had hoped to never see such a hell in Somalia ever again. Yet, here we are, 20 years later, having endured 20 years of statelessness and anarchy; having to see another generation of Somalis suffer and die of starvation. I have seen so much suffering, and still I weep. I no longer know where my tears come from. All we can do is keep helping as much as we can with the resources we have, and hope for a better time.”