It’s awful to admit it but after having spent a week in Bosaso, Puntland, hearing numerous harrowing stories and seeing children suffering from such severe malnutrition you do begin to become accustomed to it.
Just to be able to get on with your job you become a little hardened to what you are seeing and hearing.
That was until today.
I met another severely acute malnourished four month old baby girl. This little girl was called Aisha. I started chatting to who I assumed was her mum, Faouma who was holding Aisha in her arms in the clinic and listening to the events that had led her to bring Aisha to the clinic.
It suddenly became apparent that this lady wasn’t Aisha’s mum. She told me that Aisha’s mum had died the day after she’d given birth to her. She had died from intensive bleeding at home in her hut in Mingis camp, one of the 31 camps for internally displaced people in Bosaso.
Faouma was a friend and neighbour and before Aisha’s mum died she’d made her promise she’d look after her baby girl. Faouma already has nine children of her own. She stopped breast feeding her youngest so she could feed Aisha. Aisha has been ill since she was born.
I thought this was heart breaking enough and was struggling to choke back tears. I couldn’t bear to think what the future for Aisha held in a country where 1 in 4 children die before their fifth birthday and only 17% of the population are literate. It was difficult to ever believe that Aisha would ever get the chance to fulfil her potential.
I was then dealt another blow. The doctor brought into the ward a little boy called Mohammed, a year and 3/4 old. He was Aisha’s brother. He was being looked after by another neighbour and had been admitted to the clinic weighing only 6.2kg.
The only positive thing I could cling onto was that he was on the road to recovery and had already gained weight, was looking a lot more healthy and had a large appetite and a cheeky smile.
Treating malnutrition is just one step on a long journey to provide children of Somalia a future where they can thrive and shine.