Half of Somalia’s population hungry …as drought bites

The worst drought in four decades was raging through the Horn of Africa.

The World Food Programme said up to 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia were at risk of starvation by the end of the year.

Somalia was bearing the brunt with half of the population now hungry.

Hundreds of thousands of people were abandoning their homes in rural Somalia and heading to camps for the internally displaced.

Their fields were bare, crops have failed, and dead livestock were strewn along the roads. This was the worst drought in the last decade according to experts, and famine was looming.

There were thousands of children who were unaccompanied in the camps. Older siblings have taken the role of caregivers, as their fathers have gone to towns to look for food, and the mothers were stuck in hospitals where the rate of severe malnutrition was at an all-time high.

Deaths were now being reported. In one centre in Baidoa, at least 26 children died between May and June, according to records.

“Some of the girls I used to play with are still alive. Some died, while others have moved to the capital city, Mogadishu, where they work as house helps,” 13-year-old Fardhosa told  the BBC in a makeshift hut at the camp in Baidoa.

The charity Save the Children said they were seeing an increase in psychosocial stress among children and their caregivers.

“Negative childhood experiences result in… children needing psychosocial support… Parents say children are becoming violent and aggressive,” said Mahamoud Hassan, the organisation’s Somalia country director.

As Somalia faces what experts call the worst drought in a decade, children were bearing the brunt. Parents were struggling to feed them, with nearly half of the country’s under-five population likely to suffer from acute malnutrition by June.

Nimco Abdi gently placed her six-month-old baby girl onto a plastic basin supported with sisal ropes. The weighing scale from which the basin hanged read 0.6 stone (4kg). That was almost less than half of what the child’s ideal weight should be.

She was too tiny for her age. Her eyes were sunken, bones were protruding and her skin was wrinkled and pale. She let out a feeble, barely audible cry as Nimco picked her back up. -BBC

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