Declining nutritional conditions caused by drought brings reinforcement of MSF teams in Dinsor, Somalia

Stefan Pleger/MSF Click for large view

Geneva - Since the beginning of February 2006, the nutritional situation of the population - particularly the children under the age of five - in the Dinsor area located in the province of Bay, has continued to worsen and MSF has reinforced its team already present in the city's medical centre.

In a seven weeks period, the number of admissions in the therapeutic feeding centre (TFC) at the Dinsor health centre increased four-fold, increasing from 35 to 140 the number of patients currently under treatment. For several weeks, three ambulatory clinics have been used in the greater periphery of Dinsor to allow better detection of severe cases of malnutrition that are then dealt with within the framework of the program. Made up of Somali medical personnel and expatriates, they comb the area to provide care for the urgent needs of the most vulnerable, and refer the most serious cases to the Dinsor center.

The Dinsor medical centre is the only existing health structure in a zone which gathers approximately 100,000 inhabitants.

Rains have started to appear in the area, however the rainfall is less than normal, and scattered. The survival of the people in the area depends largely on the abundance of these rains which determine the success of the July harvests. The cattle continue to suffer cruelly from the lack of water and many have not survived. Only the camels and the goats are still able to cope with these demanding conditions.

For the people, access to drinking water remains very limited and many localities are being supplied water every day by ICRC tankers that cover hundreds of kilometers per day, providing for the growing needs. The situation also involves an increasingly significant number of admissions of patients suffering from severe diarrheas to the MSF health center in Dinsor. This number has been clearly increasing for five weeks with an average of 30 admissions per week with children under the age of five.

Faced with this very worrying situation, MSF is reinforcing its team with a pediatrician, nurse and logistician, all experienced, to facilitate the installation of nutritional programmes with a larger capacity.

At present, the Dinsor health centre, that normally has a capacity of 60 beds, has been doubled to 120 in-patients, including 60 severely malnourished children and conducts about 200 consultations on average every day. In addition, there are 200 patients under treatment for tuberculosis in a separate location.

Somalia's precarious situation as a country with no infrastructures or recognized government or regional health authorities makes the work of humanitarian teams particularly difficult and increases the responsibility which falls on international NGOs to provide assistance to the vulnerable populations.

Since 2002, an MSF team has worked in Dinsor. The team has 11 expatriates and more than 70 Somali national staff who manage the only medical structure of the area. The MSF activities here also includes; emergency surgery (Caesareans and care for the victims of violence); preventive care and the treatment of the people with tuberculosis or kala-azar; severe and moderate malnutrition; respiratory infections; and the always frequent diarrheas in young people.

MSF also conducts regular vaccination campaigns against measles.