Preventing Acute Malnutrition
In Somalia’s Internally Displaced Persons Camps
Written by Beatrice Munyiva, International Medical Corps
For 30-year-old Fadumo Hassan Jim’ale, the pain and disappointment that comes with losing a child are too familiar.
Last year, the young mother lost her unborn baby during labour. After the loss of her child, Fadumo—who lives with her husband at Midnimo internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp Camp in Galkayo, Somalia—became more determined to take good care of her remaining eight children.
Access to healthcare services for internally displaced persons living in Somalia remains one of the country’s biggest challenges. Due to conflict, insecurity, drought and floods, the United Nations estimates that there are 2.6 million IDPs in Somalia. Child malnutrition remains high in the region and, in most cases, IDPs seem to be the worst-hit. Somalia’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) estimates that nearly 963,000 children under the age of five will likely face acute malnutrition through December 2020—including 162,000 who are likely to be severely malnourished.
With funding from USAID’s International Food Relief Partnership Program, International Medical Corps has implemented a Blanket Supplementary Feeding Program (BSFP) in the camp. The program aims to minimise the number of children under five (between 6 and 59 months) who are at risk of malnutrition from becoming severely malnourished and reduce the number of children relapsing after having recovered from severe acute malnutrition. Through the program, staff members educate mothers on infant and young child feeding (IYCF), as well as nutrition screening using a middle upper-arm circumference (MUAC) tape—an approach that enables mothers and caregivers to be involved in monitoring the nutritional status of their children.
Two of Fadumo’s children—38-month-old Abdifitah and 20-month-old Hassan—are registered in the BSFP. Abdifitah was initially admitted to the International Medical Corps Outpatient Therapeutic Program at Midnimo Primary Health Unit after referral by his mother; community health workers have trained mothers in the IDP camp on how to screen their children for malnutrition through the use of a MUAC tape. Upon recovery, Abdifitah was referred to another facility to receive treatment for moderate acute malnutrition. Later, he was admitted into the BSFP program at Midnimo Primary Health Unit to avoid relapse.
“Abdifitah’s nutritional status is now good and his physical status shows it,” remarks Fadumo.
Abdifitah’s mother would also bring along his sibling, Hassan, whenever she would visit the facility because there was no one to look after him at home. Because they screen all the children who visit the facility as a routine practice, whether they are in the program or not, staff members realised that Hassan also was at risk of malnutrition and admitted him into the BSFP program.
Fadumo visited the health facility every two weeks, receiving 14 sachets of medium-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplement during each visit for each child to use, at a rate of one sachet per day. During the distribution days, staff would provide Fadumo with IYCF counselling.
“Our lives have changed greatly since my children benefited from the BSFP project,” she says. “The older child is lucky to have benefitted from the program.”
Midnimo Primary Health Unit is an International Medical Corps supported health facility established to cater for the health needs of IDPs. It is also a centre for nutrition hygiene and health promotion (NHHP) for the IDPs. Through a complementary nutrition program at the facility, mothers also join a support group where—through cooking demonstrations—staff members teach them how to prepare balanced meals for their children using locally available foods.
“We here at Midnimo IDP Camp used to seek medical care at a facility that is almost 4 kilometres away, but after International Medical Corps arrived, we no longer need to go to that facility unless it is a complicated case,” Fadumo explains. “We also benefit from messages shared by the organisation’s outreach teams that constantly remind us to monitor our children’s nutritional status.”
Fadumo, who takes the NHHP messages she learns at the facility and applies them at home, aspires to become a community health worker who can pass on to other mothers the knowledge that she has acquired. “The most effective thing I have got from International Medical Corps that has changed my lifestyle is the NHHP awareness, which we usually get on a daily basis, either through household visits or during the group counselling sessions at the facility. I have learnt about handwashing at the four critical times, food hygiene practices, when to seek medical care at a health facility with qualified health workers and the importance of taking my children for immunisation,” she says.
“The assistance from the program has positively affected me and my family. I have learnt how to keep an eye on the nutritional status of my children and also have acquired knowledge on hygiene and sanitation measures,” says Fadumo. “I don’t have suitable words to thank International Medical Corps, but its great assistance came in a timely manner for me. International Medical Corps is our close friend at all times.”