Long-awaited rains cause further displacement and child deaths in Mogadishu 

Long-awaited rains cause further displacement and child deaths in Mogadishu

The long awaited rains have finally arrived in the south central region of Somalia, bringing much relief to those who have suffered through a drought which has lasted as many as two years in some areas.  Report by Eva Gilliam and Yussuf Keynaan.  MOGADISHU, Somalia.

rains have displaced several Somali families
Long awaited rains have displaced several Somali families living in IDP camps in Mogadishu, Somalia. UNICEF Image © Radio Ergo 2011/Abdulle

Unfortunately, the sudden precipitation is having a devastating impact in several Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in and around Mogadishu. The makeshift huts serving as the primary shelter for hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees are made from polythene paper, sticks and cardboard, which simply cannot withstand the rain. As a result, thousands have been stranded without shelter.

Risk of waterborne diseases

Hypothermia and an increased risk of waterborne diseases such as malaria and cholera and acute water diarrhoea are serious dangers which accompany the rains, and with many Somalis already suffering from hunger and malnutrition, these dangers can often lead to death.

In the camps located in the Soona-Key neighborhood of the Hodan district in Mogadishu, many shelters have been completely washed away, and several children have died from the cold.

One devastated father recently buried the last of his seven children, all of whom died since arriving in the Soona-Key IDP camp just 40 days ago.

“My last two children have died of cold and hunger,” he said solemnly. “Just like my other five children before them.”

Malnutrition weakens immunity

Many other camps, such as in the Hamar-Bille neighborhood of Wardigley District are experiencing the same devastation, with many suffering from cold and continued hunger, without any warm clothing or blankets to protect them from the elements.

The chairperson of the camp in Wardigley district, Sahra Haji Saiid, urged for assistance in the area. “In Hamar-Bille there are six hundred IDPs suffering,” she said. “I urge everyone to please help these people.”

Flood waters surround makeshift shelters in IDP camps
Flood waters surround makeshift shelters in IDP camps outside of Mogadishu, Somalia. UNICEF Image © Radio Ergo 2011/Abdulle

With a high prevalence of malnutrition in the camps in and around Mogadishu, the impact of the rains is compounded. According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) report on Somalia, the average global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence in south Somalia was 36.4 percent and the average severe acute malnutrition (SAM) prevalence was 15.8 percent. Malnutrition weakens immunity, making children particularly vulnerable to the cold and other diseases that can come with rain and flooding.

Scaling up response

An estimated two and a half million people in Somalia are at risk of contracting malaria in conjunction with the rainy season. In order to prevent a malaria epidemic, especially among malnourished young children and internally displaced populations, UNICEF, WHO and partners, are scaling up their response to a potential malaria outbreak, with funding from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM)  and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

In the Mogadishu IDP camps, the first round of indoor spraying will aim to reach 45,000 households. This will protect households from transmission for three to four months and will be followed by a second round of spraying in March and April next year. In addition, partners are conducting campaigns to educate families on malaria prevention and where to seek care if someone contracts the disease.

In addition, 560,000 doses of effective anti-malaria drugs known as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) and one million rapid diagnostic tests will be provided to health facilities, community level health posts and additional service delivery points established by partners.

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