"Over the past weeks, I've seen hundreds of malnourished children"
My name is Osman* and I work for MSF as the nutritional supervisor in Marere, a village of 6,000 people in south central Somalia. I was born and went to school here, before moving away to study nursing in Mogadishu. In 2003, I joined MSF and returned here to my home village.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen hundreds of malnourished children — more than I have ever seen in my life before and more than I ever want to see again. I’m a father myself, so seeing children in such a bad state, hour after hour, day after day, is difficult.
One child has particularly stuck in my mind. He’s a two-year-old who was carried by his mother on foot from a village called Buale, which is over 100km away. When they arrived he was in a very bad condition: his legs were swollen and he couldn’t eat or drink anything.
We started treating him, feeding him F-75 therapeutic milk through a tube. This milk is specially made for children suffering from acute malnutrition and is high in fat, nutrients, protein and energy. After 11 days, he was responding well and we started giving him the more advanced F-100 milk orally. He started smiling and, after a few more days, he began to walk. A week after that and he was running around the hospital. It was wonderful seeing him transformed like that, and knowing the treatment we gave him had saved his life.
But not every story is as happy as his. Over the past few months, the situation in this part of the country has deteriorated. The expected rains haven’t come, drought has taken hold and cases of malnutrition are on the rise. We are seeing more patients just like him every day, and the numbers are just increasing. It is the worst that I have ever seen.
The situation here is tough, but it would be a lot tougher if MSF wasn’t here. Due to the complicated security situation, we’re the only medical organisation still operating in this area of Somalia. We don’t take money from any government to work here, which is what allows us to maintain our independence and gives us the freedom to operate.
People are coming here from all over the country for food and treatment. We see patients from Afmadow - 90km away, Kismayo - 120km away and even from Dobley, on the border between Kenya and Somalia and more than 200km away.
They come to us because they know we won’t charge a shilling for treatment and we never will. It’s because of your support that we are able to both make — and keep — that promise.
Osman Mohammed Noor
Nutritional Supervisor, Marere, Somalia
*My name has been changed to protect my identity