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Fighting with malnutrition in Somalia: Samaara’s life changing nourishment

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Samaara Abdullahi is 8-month-old infant and the youngest of a family of six. Samaara’s family is among the new Internally Displaced People (IDP) households to have settled recently in the BRCiS programme target village of Qaranri. The household income depended on rain-fed farm they owned but the drought conditions in the area threatened the family’s food security. “Back home, I had a farm where we grew maize and sorghum and met all the household food needs, however, the rain has failed in two consecutive seasons and we could not produce anymore or tolerate the devastating drought situation.’’ Said Farhia Yusuf Mohamed, 28-year-old mother of Samaara.

Farhia also recalls how difficult and exasperating the journey was before reaching Qaranri village and her expectation after reaching to the village. She said, “it was a such difficult and awful journey without food for the whole day, we had nothing to cook for our children, however when we reached Qaranri, the locals welcomed us and provided us with food and water that kept us cooking for several days’’.

In addition to the devastating hunger situation, Samara’s father is a person living with disability and has a partial paralyzed leg.’

Samaara had been sick for one and half months but immediately after they arrived in Qaranri her condition kept deteriorating. Due to limited access to adequate food, Farhia was not able to provide Samara with exclusive breastfeeding and enough complementary feeding. Samara also had not received any of her vaccinations making her immune system weak and susceptible to preventable diseases. On 1st August 2020, a Life Line Gedo (a BRCiS local partner of World Concern Agency) community health worker, Sayed Ali, who was doing his active case finding, acute malnourishment screening and house to house visit exercise as part of the community mobilisation and sensitisation activities linked to BRCiS supported mobile clinic in Belet-Hawa. Sayed Ali met Samaara with her mother at their house on one morning visit. At the time, Samaara was very sick, weak, irritable, had a persistent cough and diarrhoea for ten days. He immediately referred her to BRCIS mobile clinic in Qaranri location to be enrolled into the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) for quick management.

Samara was brought to the mobile clinic and her symptoms as identified by Sayed Ali were confirmed. In addition to this, Samara also had a low grade fever and the appearance of abdominal cramping associated with diarrhoea. On examination, Samaara was lethargic and in poor bodily condition with prominent ribs and wasted muscles. Her anthropometric measurement was, a weight of 5.0kg, Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) measurement of 9.0cm and a height of 55cm, which all indicates that the child had severe acute malnutrition.

As per the protocol, the clinic team conducted an appetite test for the ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF). Samaara passed the appetite test and was rolled in the Outpatient therapeutic program (OTP). She was brought to the mobile clinic on a weekly basis for follow up. During her enrolment in the programme, Samaara was receiving a RUFT ration and other systematic treatments as per the protocol like Vitamin A, Amoxicillin syrup and deworming to speed her recovery. The Community health workers in the village conducted follow up visits at her house to monitor the child’s RUTF consumption and to inform the family on childcare practices such as Infant and Young child (IYCF) and indicators on when to seek further assistance.

After five weeks of being enrolled in the outpatient therapeutic program for severely malnourished children, Samaara successfully recovered with MUAC of 11.9 cm and good weight gain of 4.3Kg. She was transferred from the Outpatient Therapeutic programme and was provided food supplements such as RUSF for another five weeks. After 10 weeks, Samaara successfully recovered with a final weight of 9.3 kg and MUAC 13.0cm. With smile on her face, Samaara’s mother said. ‘’It was beyond my thought and expectation! My little girl has recovered immensely and her health condition is improving; I appreciate and I thank for the existence of these services”.

BRCiS (Building Resilience in Somalia) is a humanitarian consortium funded by UK government that takes a bottom up approach to supporting Somali communities in developing their capacity to resist and absorb minor shocks without undermining their ability to move out of poverty. BRCiS is Health and nutrition sensitive and recognizes that both of them has implication doe resilience-building efforts.

Published by
Abdikarim Ali, NRC BRCiS Communication and advocacy coordinator