December 4, 2022

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A boy struggles to save his family from starvation after his brother dies of malnutrition

Tahir’s brother starved to death. Now, her two sisters are facing poor health and malnutrition.

BBC journalist Andrew Harding returns with the family to the town of Baidoa, forced to flee Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years, as officials urge the international community to recognize the food security crisis as a famine emergency.

Warning: This story contains graphic images.

Tahir, 11, makes his way to a thatched-roof school through the makeshift shacks that have sprung up on the outskirts of Baidoa. Zinc Near main road.

Wearing the only pair of pants and shirt he owns, holding on to the other one? A new textbook.

Abdullah Ahmed, 29, the school’s only teacher, writes the days of the week in English on the blackboard as Tahir and 50 classmates chant “Saturday, Sunday, Monday…”.

For a few minutes, a burst of curiosity excites the children, but soon the yawning and coughing start again? Signs of famine and disease echo like a soundtrack on the rocky plateau outside Baidoa, which in recent months has sheltered hundreds of thousands of people trying to escape Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years.

“I think at least 30 of these children have not had breakfast. Sometimes they come to me and say they are hungry,” says Ahmed.

“They have trouble paying attention and coming to class.”

Young children are increasingly dying in the fight against drought in the country


Six weeks ago, when we visited this part of southern Somalia, Tahir sat in tears next to his mother, Fatuma, in the doorway of the family’s cramped makeshift hut.

A few days ago, his younger brother, Salat, starved to death after their trip to Baidoa, where the countryside was hit hard by drought.

Salat was buried a few meters away. Now his grave is surrounded by huts built by newcomers.

“I worry about my sisters. I wash for them. I also wash their faces,” says Tahir looking at six-year-old Maryam. Cough Complaining about hoarseness and headache, then four-year-old Malyun, deep-set eyes, sitting carelessly on his mother’s knee.

“She’s hot Measles🇧🇷 Maybe they both have measles,” said Fatuma, placing her hand on Maliune’s forehead.

Fatuma (centre) has no time to grieve her son's death, she told the BBC - BBC/ Eddie Habersen - BBC/ Eddie Habersen

Fatuma (centre) had no time to grieve her son’s death, she told the BBC.


Measles cases and Pneumonia It has spread across Baidoa in recent months, killing many young children whose immune systems are weakened by malnutrition.

At Baidoa Provincial Hospital, doctors and nurses move between beds in the intensive care unit, placing IV lines in children’s skinny little arms and oxygen catheters in their tiny nostrils.

Many children’s limbs are black and blistered – like severe burns – a painful reaction to prolonged starvation.

Extreme cases of starvation can cause severe damage to the skin, which breaks down due to inflammation - BBC/ ED HABERSHON - BBC/ ED HABERSHON

Extreme cases of starvation can cause severe damage to the skin, which is broken down by inflammation.


“We’ve got some more stuff [de ajuda humanitária]🇧🇷 But still not enough,” says Abdullahi Yusuf, the hospital’s chief physician.

“The world is currently looking at the drought in Somalia. We are seeing international donor arrivals. But that does not mean we are getting enough support. I hope it will come soon. It is a desperate situation.”

Six weeks ago, he described the situation as “terrifying”. Today, he acknowledges a slight drop in hospitalizations, but explains that a few days of rain have affected some dirt roads and caused some families to focus on planting instead of taking sick children to hospital. .

The situation ‘gets worse’

Back at the camp, Fatuma carries a plastic gallon of water from a community tap. Tahir comes out of the hut to help her clean a smashed metal bowl while her sick daughters lie exhausted inside the hut.

“My son is a big help. He helps girls a lot,” says Fatuma.

As she boiled the water, the phone rang. Her husband, Adan Noor, 60, calls from their home in a village three days’ walk away in territory controlled by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab.

“He says he planted rice. It’s fine. He’ll be back soon. But we’ve lost all our cattle. We can’t survive on crops alone, so I’ll stay here. Our way of life. It’s over,” says Fatuma after ending the call.

His conclusion is supported by the opinions of many experts, who warn that this monsoon is more of a “failure” than the last four? Outside of Baidoa the desert spreads a light touch of green, but without any real impact on the crisis.

“It’s getting worse. More people are coming here in search of food, shelter and water. More children are dying of malnutrition. We appeal. [ao governo e à comunidade internacional] They consider the situation … a famine emergency,” said Baidoa Mayor Abdullah Wadin.

Famine to come in Somalia - BBC - BBC

An impending famine in Somalia

Image: BBC

Inside the enclosure, an army general warns locals of the growing threat from the al-Shabaab group, telling residents to watch out for explosive devices and ambushes.

Government troops and militias are expected to widen the offensive, which appears to have had some success in the north, but risks making access to some rural communities hard-hit by drought even more difficult.

At the end of the day, Fatuma keeps her two sick daughters? Mary and Malone? A blanket on the dirt floor of the hut.

The possibility of taking the children to the hospital was rejected in favor of treatment with traditional herbal medicines. Fatuma also lies down next to the girls, who is tired.

“I want them to be well,” Tahir says, watching the three of them from his small blanket and repeating the phrase twice more.

– This text has been published

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