Malnutrition on the Rise in Southern Central Somalia

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Geneva, June 14, 2006 — The last two weeks have seen a sharp increase in admissions of patients suffering from severe malnutrition in the town of Dinsor, in Somalia's Bay Region. Despite recent rains that remain promising for the July harvest and that have eased access of villagers and cattle to water, a growing number of children are continuing to suffer from lack of food. A therapeutic feeding program run by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in its health center in Dinsor has admitted more than 600 patients since the beginning of 2006, ten times more than during the same period last year.

The Dinsor health center 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 poor roads and through numerous militia checkpoints in order to obtain treatment.

Admissions to MSF's therapeutic feeding program have more than doubled over the last two weeks, with 73 children admitted the first week and 87 admitted the second. Children under-five-years-of-age are the most severely affected by the food crisis and are equally victims of watery diarrhea and respiratory tract infections.

More than 330 children are currently being cared for in the MSF therapeutic feeding program in Dinsor. The program consists of out-patient activity and a therapeutic feeding center (TFC) based in the MSF-run health center in Dinsor. Patients requiring hospitalization are referred to the TFC.

"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," says Bruno Jochum, Somalia program manager for MSF.

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

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

MSF has been working in Somalia since civil war began there in 1991. It currently runs eight medical projects in the country. In 2005, MSF provided more than 350,000 outpatient