Umul, a chubby, 10-month-old girl, sat on her mother’s lap munching on Plumpy’Nuts, a food supplement given to malnourished children. It was Umul’s last week in the nutrition programme at the Wardhigley Maternal and Child Health Centre in Mogadishu, Somalia. Two months earlier, her mother, Howa Ali Ibrahim, age 30, had brought Umul, then malnourished and unwell, to the health centre for treatment.
Howa and her family left their home in Baidoa and arrived in Mogadishu in 2000. Howa’s husband is dead and so she and her four children fend for themselves in a community of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Unable to leave her children, Howa sells fruit from her home in order to earn a small living.
When Umul became sick, Howa heard about the opening ceremony of a new health centre that was close to her home. “Local authorities, elders and imams had all come to mobilize people in the community,” she said. “When I heard that this facility was free of charge, then I came here,” she added.
Howa admitted that she had not been aware that her daughter had been suffering from malnutrition, but she knew that her baby girl was very ill. At first, Howa was worried because Umul had a difficult time eating the Plumpy’Nuts. As Umul gradually regained her strength, she increased her consumption to three packs a day and has added some fruit to her diet. “Her weight is better and increasing,” Howa said.
Umul has been in the nutrition programme for almost two months, and on this occasion, Howa has come to the centre to collect Umul’s final supply of Plumpy’Nuts. The nurse records Umul’s weight and fills a plastic bag with Plumpy’Nut packets. Howa opens one packet and hands it to Umul, who immediately puts it to her mouth and begins to eat. Howa smiles down at her daughter whose mouth and tummy are now covered in the paste. “I have already facilitated other women and children to come here to start treatment. Some ladies delivered here, so I believe we chose a good place,” she said.
The lifesaving facilities at the Wardhigley Maternal and Child Health Centre are part of the Essential Package of Health Services, made possible by the Somali Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP).
The JHNP is a multi-donor development programme, implemented by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, together with the Somali Health Authorities.
By 2016, the programme will provide over 5.5 Million Somalis with much needed free-access to an essential package of health services, while ensuring that a minimum of 13,000 women have access to life saving comprehensive emergency obstetric care at 24 hour referral hospitals in nine targeted regions of Somalia.
The programme is also building the Somali Health System by improving government leadership, training and deployment of skilled health workforce and providing essential medicines, vaccines and technologies.
Major development partners contributing to the Programme are United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Government of Sweden, Government of Finland, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).