By Murugi Murekio, MEDAIR
“In 2011, there was a lot of famine, a lot of diseases,” begins Medair care group Community Promoter Aisha Mohammed. “In the Kosaar Health Centre there were a lot of malnourished children.”
The United Nations (U.N.) declared famine in the Horn of Africa in July 2011. Four months later, in November, Khadar Ibrahim delivered daughter Oba Ismail.
“Five months after delivering my daughter in the hospital, she contracted pneumonia. I took her to the hospital and she was treated,” begins Khadar.
In April 2012, the FSNAU classified the nutrition situation of the displaced population (IDP) in Burao as very critical. Six-month-old Oba was among the affected.
“Oba was not breastfeeding well. She had difficulties latching onto my breast. I had to express the milk from my breast into a cup and feed her from it,” says Khadar.
Then Oba contracted diarrhoea–a huge blow to her already weakened body.
As part of their weekly routine, Medair care group Community promoter Aisha Mohammed and volunteer Cibaado Dhinbiil visited families, among them Khadar’s in Kosaar IDP camp.
The care group model uses community volunteers to deliver health, nutrition, and hygiene messages to their communities. Volunteers screen children for malnutrition and make follow-up visits to children enrolled in the Medair nutrition programmes.
“After assessment, we gave Khadar some oral rehydration solution to give Oba for the diarrhoea,” says volunteer Cibaado Dhinbiil.
Three days later they returned for a follow-up visit. Oba was much worse.
“They advised me to take Oba to the Kosaar Health Centre for treatment and malnutrition screening,” says Khadar. “At the health centre Oba was diagnosed as severely malnourished with persistent diarrhoea. She was referred to the Burao Hospital Stabilisation Centre (SC), (which Medair supports).”
Oba remained at the SC for two months before being referred back to the Medair outpatient therapeutic programme (OTP) at the Kosaar Health Centre. After three months of ongoing treatment for severe acute malnutrition, Oba is currently receiving treatment for her moderate acute malnutrition.
Thanks to Care group promoters and volunteers, mothers like Khadar in 15 locations across Burao and its surroundings are receiving life-saving health, nutrition, and hygiene messages.
According to Care group Promoter Aisha, she and her team of 15 volunteers visit pregnant women and monitor them until they go into labour, deliver in hospital, and bring their baby home.
“Each of the 15 volunteers supports 15 households. Together we support a total 225 households in this camp,” she says.
Using an illustrated book provided by Medair, the volunteers “educate pregnant women and mothers about the importance of antenatal clinics, immunisation, and nutrition during pregnancy,” Aisha says.
The health and nutrition messages in the book are mainly illustrations, as most of the volunteers and their neighbours are illiterate.
Volunteers are selected by the community and trained by Medair in key health, nutrition, and hygiene messages.
They are also able to screen children and pregnant and breastfeeding women for malnutrition and refer them to Medair-supported nutrition programmes. The volunteers are a support network within the community, passing on valuable knowledge in a culturally appropriate way to their peers.
“It is so encouraging to hear stories like Khadar’s. This is what the care group is about: neighbours looking out for each other. It proves that saving lives starts in the community, by the community,” says Medair Health Project Manager, Fabienne Ray.
Six months on, Oba is gregarious, happy, and healthy.
“My child was very sick. The Medair volunteers came and advised me what to do. This programme saved her life,” says a smiling Khadar while cuddling Oba in her arms.
Though one in five children under age five years of age in Burao still experiences some form of malnutrition, Medair has seen an improvement in the overall nutritional status of children and pregnant and lactating women, notes Medair Health and Nutrition Advisor Natalie Page.
“The general nutrition situation has improved in Medair programming areas due to favourable October – December rains, but families must still continue to recover from the difficulties experienced earlier this year,” concludes Natalie.
Medair’s work in Somalia/Somaliland is supported by Swiss Solidarity, the E.C. Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the United States Agency for International Development, Woord en Daad, Help a Child, EO Metterdaad, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and private donations from Medair supporters.
This feature was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.
Photo: Community Promoter Aisha Mohammed educating Khadar Ibrahim, an 18-year-old mother of three, in Koosar, Burao. This is part of Medair Somalia/Somaliland Care Group, a community-based model that delivers health, nutrition, and hygiene messages at household level and targets caregivers of children under five years and women of childbearing age. © Medair/Murugi Murekio.