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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Skeletal, frail and hours from death: The haunting face of baby Mihag given 50% chance of survival after mother walks for a week to refugee camp

By Wil Longbottom

Desperate: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs just 7lbs and was hours from death after arriving at a field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya

Cradled in his mother's arms, this is the face of a skeletal seven-month-old baby starving to death in the Horn of Africa.

Weighing just seven pounds - as much as a newborn - Mihag Gedi Farah stares wide-eyed, his skin pulled taut over his ribs and tiny arms.

Mihag is just one of 800,000 children who officials warn could die across the region in the worst drought for decades.

Skeletal: Doctors have given Mihag just a 50/50 chance of survival. He should weigh three times what he does

Aid workers are rushing to bring help to dangerous and previously unreached regions of drought-ravaged Somalia.

Many starving children and adults remain in the country far from the feeding tubes and doctors in field hospitals in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Sirat Amine, a nurse-nutrionist with the International Rescue Committee, said Mihag has just a 50-50 chance of survival.

The little boy should weigh three times what he does now.

Famine: Ali Omar, three, cries in anguish at Bandar Hospital in Mogadishu. Around 3.7million people face starvation in Somalia because of the worst drought in decades

Human catastrophe: A malnourished child waits to be admitted to Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu. Aid agencies have been unable to gain access to some of the worst-hit people in Somalia

Urgent aid: A baby lies under a mosquito net at a field hospital in the town of Dadaab, Kenya

His mother, Asiah Dagane, said: 'In my mind, I'm not well. My baby is sick. In my head, I am also sick.'

A nurse at the camp said Mihag was 'severely, severely malnourished'.

She added: 'We never tell the mother, of course, that their baby might not make it. We try to give them hope.'

Mrs Dagane brought Mihag and four siblings from Kismayo to Kenya after all their sheep and cattle died. Their journey took a week.

Tens of thousands of Somalis are fleeing the starvation, many of them on foot, from Kismayo and the capital Mogadishu.

Desperation: Somali women and children have been forced to walk for days to reach aid camps in Kenya and Ethiopia

Plight: Women line up to receive food-aid rations at an IDP camp near Mogadishu

Not enough: Used food tins are stacked up at the International Rescue Committee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. The UN has said it needs $300 million in the next three months to tackle the famine

The UN estimates that more than 11 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought, with 3.7 million in Somalia among the worst-hit because of the ongoing civil war in the country.

Somalia's prolonged drought became a famine because neither the government nor many aid agencies can operate in areas controlled by Al Qaeda-linked militants.

Aid organisations including the UN World Food Program have not been able to access areas under the control of the al-Shabab militants, who have killed humanitarian workers.

The UN has said it will airlift emergency rations later this week to try to reach at least 175,000 of the 2.2 million Somalis still without aid.

That operation in four districts in southern Somalia could begin tomorrow, but transportation is a major obstacle because land mines have cut off key roads and a landing strip has fallen into disrepair.

The UN wants to gather $1.6 billion in the next 12 months to sustain the aid effort in the Horn of Africa - $300 million in the next three months.

Somalia famine

Somalia famine

source: dailymail


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