Emergency food helps malnourished mothers and children in Somalia

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Two consecutive droughts mean pastoralist families struggling to get by


One meal a day. That’s what Barwaqa Mohamed Ahmed has been able to give her children since the rains failed for a second consecutive year in her home in the Gedo region of Somalia.

The drought has had a harsh effect on Barwaqa’s family and their wider community. They are pastoralists, moving with the seasons and taking their livestock to fresh water and green pasture wherever they can find it.

It’s not an easy life. And it’s been made even more difficult, due to two years of consecutive drought. The drought means it’s harder to find water for livestock. The animals have to travel further and further, with less vegetation, or food, to fuel them. The water Barawaqa and her animals do find is often poor quality and contaminated.

Barwaqa explains that her family has lost their livestock due to the drought.

She planted seeds to try and grow some food, but with no rain, her crop wouldn’t grow.

Barwaqa is a strong woman, but there’s only so much hardship one can withstand without a helping hand.

As of late, she’s been working as a casual labourer, but it doesn’t pay much—about enough to provide the children with one meal a day.

One afternoon, Barwaqa, her three children, and several other women with their young children are sitting under a large acacia tree, waiting to meet with a mobile nutrition team funded through a project of Canadian Foodgrains Bank member Development and Peace—Caritas Canada.

“Pastoralist communities like Barwaqa’s have been hit the hardest by the drought,” says Siggi Holzhaeuer, who manages the project on behalf of the Foodgrains Bank. “Their remoteness and high dependency on rainfall makes them more vulnerable than most.”

Through the project, Development and Peace’s local partner Trocaire reaches out to nomadic communities in Somalia, screening pregnant and lactating women and young children for malnutrition, providing emergency supplementary food, and making referrals to health clinics when needed.

It was during such a visit that Barwaqa learned two of her three children were malnourished.

“We have bought food from the shops here on credit, but that has run out and it’s not enough,” she says. “Even last night, we had nothing to eat.”

On the day of the visit, Barwaqa received fortified peanut paste for her malnourished children, as well as a pre-mixed nutritious porridge made up of corn and soy.

The foods have a mix of vitamins, micro-nutrients, proteins, and other ingredients to help children regain their weight and strength, ensuring they grow properly.

The support is critical, adds Holzhaeuer, noting that an assessment before the project began noted about 20 percent of young children in the project area were suffering from wasting, or acute malnutrition. Another four percent were suffering from severe acute malnutrition, meaning that without proper treatment, they could die.

“When children under the age of five years go through key developmental stages of learning and growing without proper nutrition, the results stay with them their whole lives,” he says. “It’s not just their physical growth that’s affected by lack of food and proper nutrition. Even a child’s brain development can be affected when they’re not getting enough food to eat.”

Overall through the project, which totals $388,000, 2,700 children and 2,700 pregnant or lactating women are receiving emergency help. The project is also receiving support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Coordinator, from a report by Trocaire Somalia

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