MOGADISHU -- Despite their age, the two young women are mothers of considerable experience. Halima is 24 years old and has seven children while Fatia, a year older, is a mother of six. Both are firm believers in the value of the specialized high-nutrient WFP food packets they are receiving every month to keep their children healthy.“I don’t want my babies to become weak and malnourished,” says Fatia as her youngest child, nine-month-old Yasmina, peers at a visitor from a sling on her mother’s back.
“It’s important to keep the little ones strong, especially now,” adds Halima, cradling her youngest, eight-month-old Hashim, on her knee.
Preparing for the rains
The two women are sitting side by side on the doorstep of a health and nutrition clinic in Hammer Jabjab, an impoverished district of narrow, sandy lanes set amidst the ruins of central Mogadishu. The clinic is run by a local NGO, one of WFP’s cooperating partners in the war-torn capital of Somalia.
Almost every day, the clinic dispenses monthly rations of Plumpy’Sup, a peanut butter-based ready-to-eat paste packed with vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients specifically designed to treat moderately malnourished children under five—speeding the recovery of those afflicted as well as preventing the onset among those threatened.
“That’s why we come here,” says Fatia as she waits for her monthly ration. “I don’t have to cook it and the children like it.” Halima points to the coming rainy season, when the danger mounts from water-borne diseases and infections, especially cholera and watery diarrhoea. “The children need to be strong when the rains come,” she says.
Life in Mogadishu
Neither Fatia nor Halima are among those displaced by the famine that is ravaging much of southern Somalia not far beyond Mogadishu’s boundaries. But both are residents of Hammer Jabjab and, like most in the district, are poor and vulnerable to the same perils as those facing their fellow Somalis in flight from war and famine.
Rates of moderate acute malnutrition remain alarmingly high among the children of the displaced, often in excess of 30 percent, well above the 15 percent internationally recognized as constituting an emergency.
To help counter the threat, WFP has been dispensing Plumpy’Sup rations to the mothers of tens of thousands of young children across Mogadishu, distributed at 22 nutrition centres and health clinics in the city similar to the one in Hammer Jabjab.
To boost existing quantities among local NGOs, WFP has also mounted an airlift of Plumpy’Sup, drawing upon stores of the product stockpiled at other WFP operations in the region and beyond. To date, 244 metric tons has arrived at Mogadishu airport, enough to feed more than 85,000 malnourished children under five for a month.