Children are bearing the brunt of Somalia’s worst drought in a decade, according to experts. Nearly half of the country’s under-five population is expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by June, as parents struggle to feed them.
Nimco Abdi gently places her six-month-old daughter in a plastic basin with sisal ropes to support her. The basin hangs from a weighing scale that reads 0.6 stone (4kg). That’s almost half of what the child should weigh in order to be healthy.
She’s far too small for her age. Her skin is wrinkled and pale, and her eyes are sunken. Her bones protrude. As Nimco picks her up, she lets out a weak, barely audible cry.
“I used to feed her breast milk. But, due to a lack of food, I became extremely ill. And because she had become so frail, I decided to bring her here. At the very least, she has access to milk and medications “Nimco agrees.
Nimco has just arrived in Luuq, Somalia, 310 miles (500 kilometres) south of Mogadishu, at a malnutrition stabilisation centre. She is assigned a bed within the facility, which she must share with another mother.
Hers is one of many mothers who are concerned about their children succumbing to malnutrition.
“If nothing is done, 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in the country will perish by the summer of this year,” warns Adam Abdelmoula of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).
“70 percent of school-aged children in this country are already absent. The drought has forced the closure of 40 schools in just one state in Juba land, and this will be the trend in many drought-stricken areas “He goes on to say that some girls are married off too young because their families are unable to provide for them.
The bed capacity at Luuq’s malnutrition centre, according to Fatuma Mohamed, is 18, but more than 50 children and their mothers are present.