Monday, July 18, 2011

Traveling 250 Miles to find Nutrition for an Infant!

CARE photo
There is an emergency in East Africa (primarily Somalia), and it's possible that the situation is on some of our radar screens.  But for many of us, the dire situation halfway across the globe is lost in our daily routine. Here is an excerpt form a heartbreaking note I received from Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans Frontiers) the other day:
MSF Galcayo staff reports mothers travelling up to 250 miles to bring weakened children to the therapeutic feeding center. One 19 year old mother of 11 month old Najmo, told MSF nurses that the journey had almost been too late and too long and, with no support in Galcayo, the only way she will be able to return is to sell her child's exit ration given on discharge.

The situation is equally dramatic in other areas in Somalia. In the town of Marere [Lower Juba] the MSF team has seen a sharp increase in cases of severe malnourishment among people coming from all over the Juba valley. “The majority of the hospital beds in Marere are currently occupied by malnourished children in need of intensive care, and additional staff has been recruited to assist.”
And the situation is very much a priority for CARE.
Think about having to walk for days in the scorching heat with little water and food. Think about who you may lose along the way — maybe the newborn you cannot feed because you don't have enough nourishment to produce milk or your infirm parents who cannot complete the journey. Picture yourself finally arriving at the camps to discover that food, water and shelter are scarce there, too.

Out of the 1,300 people arriving at the camps every day, 800 are children who are exhausted, weak and extremely hungry from their long trek.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In Guri El in Galgaduud region new admissions to the MSF therapeutic feeding center are almost triple those at the same time last year.

Over the border Dadaab, Kenya, where tens of thousands of Somalis continue to flee in search of assistance, camps meant for 90,000 people are fast approaching half a million people, with often 1000 or more people crossing per day. Assessing in the outskirts of one of Dadaab’s camp sites, MSF teams found extremely high malnutrition rates amongst the new arrivals - a global malnutrition (GAM) rate of 38% and 17.5% of severe acute malnutrition (SAM)].
Here is the full letter 

MSF has worked continuously in Somalia since 1991 and currently provides free medical care in eight regions of southern Somalia. Over 1,400 Somali staff, supported by approximately 100 staff in Nairobi, provide free primary and secondary healthcare, malnutrition treatment, support to displaced people, surgery, water and relief supply distributions. MSF does not accept any government funding for its projects in Somalia: all its funding comes from private donors.  Here is more background  Read Bread for the World's account

Somali physician  Dr Hussein Sheikh Qassim, describes the life-saving role of the MSF clinics.
As a Somali myself, I can say that if MSF was not here, we would be like a boat that has run out of fuel in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Without MSF’s help, thousands would have died. Somalia needs your help now more than at any other time. MSF saves countless lives and, with your help, will continue to save many more. Thank you
Read article entitled Somalia: ‘The malnutrition ward is beyond full’

So what can we do?  We can continue our advocacy efforts through Bread for the World or other organizations to save the poverty-focused development assistance programs that will help provide a lasting solution to the problem.  And we can also support the work of organizations like CARE or MSF.

Finally, we can hold the people of Somalia and East Africa and the workers in the clinics in our prayers. 

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