Malnutrition on the rise in south-central Somalia

© Stefan Pleger

 

Beyond the current impact of the drought, much of Somalia remains without any functional health services and capacity to assist with life-saving interventions, whether it is for endemic diseases such as tuberculosis, main killers such as diarrhea and malaria, or malnutrition. It is estimated that one in every four child dies before the age of five.

 

Geneva - The last two weeks have seen a sharp increase in admissions of patients suffering from severe malnutrition in the town of Dinsor (Bay Region).

In spite of the recent rains that remain promising for the July harvest and have eased access of villagers and cattle to water, a growing number of children are continuing to suffer from a lack of food and the therapeutic feeding programme of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has now admitted more than 600 patients since the beginning of 2006, ten times more than last year for the same period.

The Dinsor health centre run by MSF is the only comprehensive health facility in Bay region where nearly 650,000 people are struggling daily to access quality medical care. Many patients travel long distances on bad vehicles and roads through numerous militia checkpoints in order to get treatment.

Admissions in the programme have more than doubled over the last 15 days with 73 and 87 children admitted for the last two weeks. Children under-five are the most severely hit by the food crisis and are equally victims of watery diarrhea and respiratory tract infections.

More than 330 children are currently taken care of in the therapeutic feeding programme of MSF. The latter regroups both the ambulatory activity carried out in the district and the Therapeutic Feeding Centre (TFC) in Dinsor town, where cases requiring hospitalization are being referred to.

"The structural deterioration of the health situation of average Somalis, year after year, is extremely worrying and the tense political environment can only cause more concerns for the coming months, at a time when the southern part of the country is facing a serious food and water crisis due to the effect of several years of drought," said Bruno Jochum, Somalia programme manager for MSF in Geneva, Switzerland.

Beyond the current impact of the drought, much of Somalia remains without any functional health services and capacity to assist with life-saving interventions, whether it is for endemic diseases such as tuberculosis, main killers such as diarrhea and malaria, or malnutrition. It is estimated that one in every four child dies before the age of five.

"In many parts, coping mechanisms are stretched to their limits. The lack of international humanitarian actors directly present in the field able to provide quality assistance is only increasing the misery in which average people find themselves," added Jochum.

MSF is present in Somalia since the beginning of the civil war, with eight medical projects run by expatriate and national staff. In 2005, MSF provided more than 350,000 outpatient consultations and admitted more than 10,000 patients in hospitalizations.