Dispatch from the epicenter of Somalia’s hunger crisis
UN Relief Chief on a visit to Somalia.
With more than 100,000 people at imminent risk of death from hunger, Baidoa, in South West Somalia, is the epicenter of the starvation crisis ravaging the country.
At the Bay Regional Hospital, the main referral hospital in South West State, babies lie motionless, too weak to even cry. Mothers – some of them children themselves – look on, resigned. After all, this has been the fate of generations of mothers before them. Endless cycles of drought, disease, hunger and war seem to have become the norm.
Similar scenes fill the Banadir hospital, right in the city of Mogadishu. Scenes of emaciated children and hopeless parents.
The stories of the children of Somalia today need to be heard by people around the world.
USG Griffiths meets with 6-year-old Nur and his mother, Safiya, during a visit to the Bay Regional Hospital in Baidoa, Somalia. (Photo: UNOCHA/ Mukhtar Nuur)
Nur Usman is six years old, but he looks three. His mother Safiya says that he has been sick for a while, but she couldn’t afford to take him to the hospital.
Abdi Aziz is three years old. He can barely move or breathe and is oblivious to the commotion of the hospital staff and visitors around him.
Nuurto is 2.5 years old. She was admitted to the Banadir hospital three weeks after arriving to Banadir, along with her family, fleeing hunger in Lower Shabelle.
Neither Nur Usman, Abdi Aziz or Nuurto could smile. None of the children we saw at both hospitals smiled. Very few of them could even cry, and if they did it sounded more like whimpering.
All of them will require intensive treatment to get better. Some of them will recover. Some of them won’t.
Nuurto didn’t. Two days after we met her, we learned that she had passed.
The stories of, Nur Usman, Abdi Aziz and Nuurto are sad, but unfortunately, not unique.
The latest Somalia Food Security and Nutrition analysis report shows concrete indications that famine will occur in two areas in the Bay region (Baidoa and Burhakaba districts) in South-Central Somalia between October and December. This means that children are already dying from starvation and disease. Many more will die – like Nurrto – if they don’t get the urgent help they need.
As Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, put it:
“Famine is at the door. We are in the last minute of the 11th hour to prevent a full-blown disaster.”