Somalia: MSF responds to acute malnutrition on outskirts of Mogadishu

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MSF nutritional assessment in camps reveals alarming malnutrition rates among children
© Mike Woodman/MSF — An MSF staff screens a child for malnutrition in the Warshadaha outpatient feeding centre in Mogadishu.

One in four children living in camps on the outskirts of the Somali capital are malnourished, according to an assessment conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In response to the critical situation, a team from MSF launched an emergency three-day intervention to provide urgent nutritional treatment and on-site medical care to children under the age of five.

MSF medical staff visited 34 camps hosting more than 15,000 displaced people living with limited access to healthcare. Many have suffered multiple displacements and are extremely vulnerable.

Over three days, 1,500 children were screened for acute malnutrition and 396 were admitted to MSF’s nutritional programme, 70 of them with severe acute malnutrition.

The MSF team also provided emergency medical care to 162 children, referring 25 of them to the MSF paediatric hospital in the Hamar Weyne district of Mogadishu. Most were suffering from respiratory tract infections, skin diseases and diarrhoea. In addition, some 380 children were immunised against measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.

In Somalia the population are profoundly affected by decades of violence that have wrecked the health system. Over the past few years, thousands of Somalis have been displaced from their homes or have fled to neighbouring countries due to intense violence, drought, malnutrition and infectious diseases. While food security seems to have improved since 2011, assessment by MSF shows that malnutrition rates are still alarming in many parts of the country, including the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The continuing insecurity in most parts of the country and access restrictions for humanitarian workers remain major obstacles to MSF’s medical assistance in Somalia. The organisation is constantly adapting its medical response to cope with the challenging environment. With a restricted ability to conduct proper assessments and respond to any new acute situation, MSF is forced to limit the scope of its response and focus only on the most critical medical needs.

In October 2011, two MSF aid workers, Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, were abducted in Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya while carrying out emergency assistance for the Somali population. They remain in captivity till today. MSF, while still responding to acute crisis requesting live-saving interventions, has put on hold the opening of any non-emergency projects in Somalia until their release.  


MSF has worked continuously in Somalia since 1991, and continues to provide lifesaving medical care to hundreds of thousands of Somalis in ten regions of the country, as well as in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia. Over 1,400 staff, supported by approximately 100 people in Nairobi, provide a range of services, including free primary healthcare, malnutrition treatment, surgery, water and relief supply distributions and assistance to displaced people. MSF relies solely on private charitable donations for its work in Somalia and does not accept any government funding.