Somalia: Malnutrition Rising in Lower Juba Region

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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In recent weeks, MSF has seen an alarming rise in the number of malnourished children being treated at Marere Hospital in Somalia's Lower Juba Region.

In recent weeks, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has seen an alarming rise in the number of malnourished children being treated at Marere Hospital in Somalia's Lower Juba Region. “MSF is currently treating around 750 children in its inpatient and ambulatory therapeutic feeding program,” explained MSF Assistant Medical Coordinator Dr. Sheikhdon Salad Elmi. “Between January and May 2010, we admitted 1,975 children suffering from malnutrition. This is almost double the number we treated during the same period last year.”

Since mid-May, severe flooding throughout the area has wiped out crops, displaced people, and further restricted access to healthcare. This comes after years of chronic drought, insecurity, a complete lack of public health services, and limited humanitarian assistance.

“Our staff have visited several villages and found high numbers of malnourished children within the communities. The high waters have washed away roads and made travel very difficult,” said Dr. Sheikhdon. “Some people are using homemade rafts to get to the hospital. All indicators point toward a highly concerning situation.”

MSF is doing its utmost to respond to the escalating needs by recruiting additional staff in its hospital and erecting tents to extend the treatment area, which is now overflowing with patients. “The MSF team in Marere is working tirelessly to respond to the increased needs,” said Dr. Sheikhdon. “However, we are concerned that many people in need of care may not be able to reach us while we face limitations in reaching them. We have resumed outreach services to a small number of villages in the wider rural area and hope to expand this care.”

MSF has provided free medical care in Somalia since 1991. In Marere, MSF runs an outpatient department, pediatric inpatient department, and maternity unit where medical professionals provide delivery services, emergency obstetric care, therapeutic and supplementary feeding, surgery, outpatient curative and preventative services, and tuberculosis treatment. In 2009, 35,644 people, including 12,756 children under the age of five, received consultations and free medication. Some 1,308 people were admitted to the hospital for treatment, and 2,882 children received nutritional care.

Thanks to 1,300 committed Somali staff, who are supported by approximately 100 staff in Nairobi, MSF also provides medical services in Banadir, Bay, Hiraan, Galgaduud, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, and Mudug Regions MSF does not accept any government funding for its projects in Somalia; all funding comes from private donors.