Somalia: A mother’s tough decision

Somalia: A mother’s tough decision

Fawsiyo sits on a bed in the hospital rocking and soothing her crying six month old son Mawlid. About 10 days ago, Mawlid started vomiting and having diarrhea and it continued for days. Fawsiyo’s husband had traveled into the city looking for work, so she was caring for their five children alone.

Now, one was extremely ill. She knew she needed to get Mawlid to the hospital, but she couldn’t leave the other four young children with no one to care for them, or they could die too. She didn’t know what to do, but wait and hope that Mawlid didn’t die before her husband got home.

For two days, Fawsiyo waited in agony for her husband to return before she was able to get Mawlid to the hospital. Luckily, she arrived in time for Mawlid’s life to be spared. Many children are not so lucky though.

“This is a very common problem. After the drought has killed all of their livestock, many of the men are leaving their wives and children at home to come into the cities to find day labor,” said Hamdi, nutrition coordinator at CARE in Somalia. “Many mothers who are alone with no one to help them with their young children, will find themselves in a position where they have to compromise the life of one child to save the others.”

Halimo is another mother whose 18 month-old daughter, Samira, has been suffering from diarrhea. She’s been hoping that Samira would get better, because she can’t leave her four other children at home alone. But yesterday, a CARE community health worker visited her house and examining the child, encouraged Halimo to take Samira to the CARE nutrition center immediately to get a medical screening.

After coming to the nutrition center to get Samia seen by a CARE health worker, Halimo learned that her daughter not only was suffering from severe malnutrition, but she also has the measles. She could not delay getting her baby to the hospital any longer. She will find neighbor or someone to wathc the other four so she can get Samira to the hospital.

Cases of measles are sweeping across Somalia. Measles thrives in congested, unsanitary environments, and with nearly 700,000 people displaced because of the drought, populations in displaced people camps are increasing significantly.

In the displaced people camps, CARE Is operating nutrition screening and treatment centers for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under five, and have treated over 11,000 severely malnourished children. At the center, children are weighed and their arm circumference measured to determine their nutrition level. Children like Samira who are severely malnourished and have a medical complication such as the measles, are then referred to the nearby hospital for more advanced emergency treatment.

Once at the hospital, Halimo comforts her sick baby, relieved that Samira will get treatment, but worried about her other children back home without her.

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