Samira Dirir Adan, aged 16 months, died from malnutrition earlier this month in in the squalid camps in Balli-Mataan village, 70 km from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.
According to Dr Khalid Abdi Yusuf, who runs a local health centre in the area, Samira’s death brings the number of children who have died from malnutrition to 24 in the past two months.
Dr Khalid estimates that one in 10 children in the area is acutely malnourished. The dire situation, he said, has arisen as a result of food scarcity at the height of the drought.
He has diagnosed 254 severely malnourished children since November.
“These children develop enlarged heads and their skin starts peeling,” Dr Khalid said. “We sometimes find two year olds weighing four to six kilos, and we don’t have the capacity to treat them when they reach such advanced levels of malnutrition.”
The health centre cannot admit children for treatment as it has no ward facilities. It offers high calorie biscuits and milk for parents to take home for their children. The doctor advises parents to take their very sick children to hospitals in Hargeisa.
Dr Khalid said he knew of 11 malnourished children, including seven from Balli-Mataan, who had been taken to Hargeisa for treatment.
But the vast majority of IDP families can not afford transport.
Amino Ibrahim Hogos returned from the health centre in despair after being told they could not help her three children. Amino’s youngest two-year-old son is the worst affected. She said the child had lost weight and his body was swollen and he could not eat.
“I don’t know if my children will survive in this camp. We moved here this month. I don’t have enough money to take them to the capital,” Amino said.
The family, with eight children, often goes without food. They depend on what residents and neighbours can offer them. Amino’s husband is old and sick and earns no income.
People in the camp said they had not received any aid in the last two months. They had previously received some help from a Saudi organization, Al-Kheyr.