Somalia: “I must survive for my children to survive”

Holly Frew
Nasteexo with two of her children

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The drought took everything from me. It took my livestock, my home, our food, water and my husband.

When the drought came, it took away her family’s lifeline: the livestock that provided food, milk and income. Nearly all the family’s 100 goats died. Nasteexo’s family had no food or money and most alarmingly, they could not find water.

Nasteexo has a total of seven children with one on the way. Two of her children are from a previous marriage. After the drought took their livelihood, Nasteexo’s current husband said he could not afford to care for all the children, particularly the children who were not his.

Nasteexo could not just let her children die, so she took her four-year-old daughter and the two youngest sons and traveled to the nearest town of Bosaso (in Puntland, northern Somalia). Here, she hoped to find food and clean water for her and her children before it was too late.

Before the drought, we ate two solid meals per day. Now there are days we don’t eat anything.

When they arrived in Bosaso, her youngest son, Abdi, was very sick. He was already suffering from malnutrition and then started having diarrhoea. Nasteexo took him to a nutrition centre for women and children run by CARE. Here she was able to get emergency nutrition treatment for Abdi and her four-year-old daughter Yasmin, who was also sick.

CARE health workers first weighed Abdi, measured his height and then the circumference of his arm, which would tell them the level his malnutrition. Anything under 11cm is considered severely malnourished. Abdi’s arm measured at under 10.

Woman and child being monitored for malnutrition
CARE staff member measuring the arm of Nasteexo's elder son, Salman, to check on his nutritional level

Next, the health worker gave little Abdi a sample of Plumpy Nut to test his appetite. Plumpy Nut is a peanut-based nutritional supplement used to treat severely malnourished children. If he was too sick to consume the Plumpy Nut, they would then refer him to the hospital for advanced malnutrition treatment.

Luckily, Abdi was healthy enough that he still had an appetite for the Plumpy Nut, so the health workers sent Nasteexo home with week’s supply for both Abdi and Yasmin, with directions to come back to the centre weekly to monitor the children’s progress and get another week’s supply of the Plumpy Nut.

The children have been going to the centre every week for the past 6 weeks, and Abdi is looking and feeling healthy again. Nasteexo feels relief that her children are getting better, but she still worries how she will provide for them and keep them from getting sick again.

“I can’t even provide shelter for my children. We are staying with another family for now, but that cannot continue for long,” she said.

For my children to survive, I must survive. It’s a struggle, but I must go on.

CARE is operating nutrition screening and treatment centres for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under five, and we have already treated over 11,000 severely malnourished children. Please donate now to help us reach more mothers, children and families in need.

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Holly Frew's picture

Holly Frew is Emergency Communications Officer for CARE USA