Somalia: And Despite It All, A Great Sense Of Humour
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Published on 29 December 2011

Adar and her daughter, Ayan, have joined the new Mother and Child nutrition programme run with WFP's cooperating partner, Merlin.  Copyright: WFP/Susannah Nicol

It isn't often that amidst the sadness and strife of a crisis, you meet someone who has lost a lot but who makes you laugh.  This is what happened to me in a small health clinic in the back of beyond in Fiqi Adan, Somaliland.

Through a translator, I ask Adar how old she is and she laughs, waving a hand, saying “Oh around 45”.

I ask her if she’ll allow me to film her while she visits the Mother and Child Health Clinic. I explain she can refuse and it won’t affect her treatment or ration. She would simply be doing me a favour, I say, adding that her name and face would appear on the website for the world to see.  She stares at me for a moment and then with another flick of her hand she rolls her eyes as if to say, “yeah, whatever”. The other women giggle.

When I suggest doing an interview sitting under the tree, she replies “Oh God” in such a way that the other women roar with laughter.  So we don’t sit under the tree but stand in the sun, her preferred option. 

A sadly familiar tale
Despite her wicked sense of humour, there is of course no laughter when Adar tells me how things are for her family. It’s a story that resonates for so many Somalis at the moment. 

The family used to have a 100 or so shoats (a mixture of sheep and goats in a herd) but now they have only 30. Over five years, the price for livestock has dropped by a quarter. It’s been two years since she has felt rain on her face.

The family is becoming less able to cope because they are not eating enough, especially of their traditional diet of milk and meat. She believes the child she is carrying on her back is anaemic. The little girl, Ayan, is one and a half years old, the youngest of her children and the most vulnerable. 

Taking the initiative
The health clinic to which  Adar has come  is in the  village of Fiqi Adan in the Boroma region of Somaliland.  The place is remote and, while it took us around eight hours to drive to from Hargeisa, it took Adar six hours to walk to from her home in Buur Cad (White Mountain).  But it’s the only clinic within reach of the local communities suffering the long-term effects of persistent drought.

Here WFP has recently introduced two types of initiative to provide food including specialised nutritional products:  a Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme (TSFP) which treats moderate acute malnutrition in pregnant and nursing mothers, and in children aged 5-69 months; and Mother and Child Health clinic Nutrition Support (MCHN). The latter is a preventative initiative to stop the cycle of malnutrition taking hold, to promote to growth of infants and young children under two years of age, and to promote safer pregnancies and child delivery by providing a food incentive.

Worth the walk 

Adar has come to receive her first rations for the MCHN programme which consists of a fortified mix of corn soya blend, cooking oil and sugar.

 Another woman in the crowd, Sacid, who has a three-year old malnourished daughter called Hinda in the TSFP programme, will receive Plumpy’Sup, a fortified nutritional product based on peanuts.

After taking her rations, Adar acknowledges that she is taking something away that was worth the grueling journey. 

“We don’t have a guarantee to keep us from death”, she says “but this will make us better than before.”   Adar then smiles and begins the long trek home.