Babies are dying in Somalia as hunger spreads

Two mounds of soil heaped over the little bodies of Halima Hassan Abdullahi’s twin grandchildren are encircled by hacked-off thorn branches. Ebla and Abdia were only alive for a day.

Hunger-stricken, their mother gave birth to the twins a month early, eight weeks after their depleted family entered a displaced families camp in Dollow, Somalia.

“She’s emaciated, and her two babies died of starvation,” Abdullahi said at the Kaxareey camp, which opened in January and currently has 13,000 residents.

They are part of a population of over 6 million Somalis that require assistance to live.

The greatest drought in 40 years has shriveled their beans and corn and strewn scrubland with the bodies of their goats and donkeys after rains failed for four seasons in a row.

With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine, relief organizations and the United Nations are frantic to draw attention to a disaster they claim is eerily. More than a quarter of a million individuals perished at the time, the majority of them were children under the age of five.

Only nearly half of the inhabitants in the Kaxareey camp have adequate money. Abdullahi’s family is not among the fortunate.

She hasn’t seen anything like it since the early 1990s, when a famine in Somalia sparked a disastrous US military incursion that resulted in the shooting down of a Black Hawk aircraft. She said that her family had never had to leave their farm before.

On good days, Abdullahi can support her 13-member family by earning $1.50 washing clothes in town. Everyone can have a single handful of maize porridge as a result.

However, this is insufficient. Her daughter-in-law requires typhoid medication, which costs 10 times Abdullahi’s daily pay. A thin infant frets at her breast as the girl sleeps still on a blanket. A red high-heeled shoe with a diamante clasp rests close in the mud, one of the few belongings she brought from their sun-bleached house. She is now unable to even speak her own name.

Abdullahi whispers, “Abdiya,” in an attempt to rouse her.

The girl does not raise her head.

Famine is approaching over six districts of Somalia, which is home to about 15 million people in a region especially vulnerable to climate change consequences. Early intervention is critical to averting famine.

Because food was distributed quickly, a drought in 2017 – worse than the one that precipitated the 2011 famine – lost just about 1,000 people their lives.

However, speed necessitates money. It’s also in scarce supply.

Only 15% of the United Nations’ emergency relief plan has been financed.

Aid has reached 2.8 million individuals so far. If additional money came in, another 3.1 million people might be assisted.

The remainder are trapped in the scorching hinterlands, where an Islamist insurgency has taken root.

“We need the money to avoid starvation,” Rukia Yacoub, the World Food Programme’s deputy director for East Africa, said.

People in the camp construct dwellings out of orange tarpaulins and bits of fabric and plastic draped over stick domes.

As aid workers construct pit latrines out of corrugated iron sheets, pounding echoes. Newcomers congregate around tents where relief workers inform them that they will not get assistance for the time being.

Instead, many families find themselves begging for a cup of food or a few cents from individuals who are marginally better off but arrived early enough to qualify for assistance.

Hunger harms children before they succumb to illnesses. Asha Ali Osman, 25, just lost her three-year-old and four-year-old children to measles.

She now cradles her youngest child, a newborn, while she waits in Dollow for the girl to be vaccinated.

“I’m in such pain since I can’t even nurse her,” she said. “When my kids are hungry, I can approach a neighbor for some sugar water. Alternatively, we may simply lie down and cry together.”

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