Turn on CNN or World News or glance at the front-page of any major newspaper and you’re sure to learn of the worsening situation in the Horn of Africa. A devastating famine is ravaging the region. Somalia is bearing the brunt of the crisis with nearly 4 million people at risk of starvation. In the past 90 days, 29,000 Somali children have fallen victim to the worst food crisis to hit the region in six decades. Irene Moora, a Nutrition Specialist from CESVI, an Italian humanitarian organization, returned from Galkayo, Somalia just a few days ago and shares with Plumpy’nut Press readers the situation in the region. Irene spent her time in Somalia working with a project funded by UNICEF that seeks to ensure access to quality emergency health and nutrition services in rural and semi-rural areas in South Mudug. Read on below and to continue this conversation with @cesvinairobi!
You just returned from Galkayo, Somalia, can you tell Plumpy’nut Press readers about what the situation is like there?
The situation in Galkayo is critical and it’s marked with increased number of admissions of severely acute malnourished under five children to inpatient and outpatient therapeutic care nutrition programmes. The rising admissions could be attributed to several prevailing factors including diseases, inadequate dietary intakes, food insecurity, and poor sanitation among others.
Food access for most households is poor due to reduced purchasing power and ever rising food prices for both local and imported food products. The prices are likely to skyrocket during the Ramadan season due to the increasing demand for food. The population in Galkayo depends on livestock for their livelihoods. The animal health is currently deteriorating as a result of diminishing pasture and lack of water. This has in turn reduced milk production of these animals.
What is CESVI doing to provide relief in the Horn of Africa?
CESVI is scaling up its health and nutrition activities in its already existing programmes to increase coverage. We are also identifying new geographical areas where there are gaps to start up health and nutrition intervention programmes in both Kenya and Somalia.
What kind of nutrition programs did you work with in Somalia?
CESVI has an ongoing outpatient therapeutic nutrition programme. This programme targets under five children with MUAC (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) < 11.5cm or z-score <-3 without complications as the admission criteria. The beneficiaries meeting this criterion are followed up weekly and provided with Plumpy’nut ration.
Can you tell Plumpy’nut Press readers about how Plumpy’nut is being used in Somalia?
Every child who meets the admission criteria to the outpatient therapeutic care programme is admitted to the nutrition programme. Upon admission, the health staff carry out a Plumpy’nut appetite test for all the children. If the test is good, the children are given a week’s ration of Plumpy’nut where they are supposed to consume a certain number of satchets per day depending on their body weight. They are then given a return date on a weekly basis to review their progress during the treatment period. If there are no underlying conditions, children are able to recover within a period of 2 months from malnutrition.
Why are children the most vulnerable victims to famine?
Children under the age of five are at their early age of growth and development. During this stage, their nutrient needs are higher than later ages in life. Equally, the children are very active at early ages; therefore their nutrient intake should be able to meet body requirements. In famine, food security is greatly compromised and children are massively affected as the nutrient intake is much lower compared to body needs.
What can be done in the long-term to make sure a situation this futile doesn’t happen again? What can Plumpy’nut Press readers do to help?
For short term, Plumpy’nut may be used to manage and treat malnutrition. However, it is important to implement integrated interventions to address the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition as presented in the UNICEF conceptual framework of causes of malnutrition.
Long-term interventions may include:
- Harvesting and storage of water to be used during dry spells
- Improved access to health care
- Health promotion on hygiene and sanitation
- Health education on infant and young child caring practices
- Education for all