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East Africa Famine: Families get help from SOS

Ga'al and his seven-year-old son Joseph
Ga'al and his seven-year-old son Joseph

Hundreds of families desperate for food and water are arriving at the Badbado refugee camp in Mogadishu every day. SOS Children have established an immunisation centre, a health clinic and a feeding centre which is helping thousands of children and their families.

Ga'al, 53, and his seven-year-old son Joseph

Ga'al arrives stumbling into the SOS Health Clinic with his seven-year-old son in his arms. Joseph was too weak to walk, so the exhausted Ga'al carried him. "My other children are also sick, but I could only carry Joseph and he is in the worst condition", says Ga'al.

SOS Doctor Hani Mohamad Hussein asks about Joseph's condition. Ga'al tells him that Joseph got measles ten days ago, but luckily he got over them. "But he is still feeling bad", he says. Dr. Hani believes that Joseph has a respiratory infection, which is common after measles. "He also has diarrhoea which we have to keep an eye on. Make sure that he gets enough to drink," says Dr. Hani.

Ga'al and his family have come to Mogadishu on foot. They come from 60 kilometers away, where they lived off the 32 cows they had. "A year ago the drought began to be a serious problem for us. We couldn't give the animals enough fodder and water and eventually they all died," Ga'al says. Ga'al's nine children are between 15 years and five months old. He was lucky. They all survived. "My wife is over there, standing in line to get some food. She has some of the children with her. The others are waiting in the camp," tells Ga'al who has been in Badbado for a month now.

"The children don't really have it better here. But it is better to be here than on the road or at some place without food. If we had stayed, there would have been nothing. I was happy before. We had food and I had something to do," says Ga'al, who would like to go back to where they lived before. Joseph wants that, too. "The children are just sitting around here. Before, they could play, run around and help out a little. Now they are just sitting and looking. But they do have it better here than in the five days when we walked here, when we fled." "If only we could go home. We could start all over with ten cows, "says Ga'al.

Dr. Hani gives Joseph penicillin which he has to take over the next few days before coming back for a check-up at the SOS Health Clinic.

Grandmother Mogay and AdamEast Africa Famine 2011

Each day hundreds of refugees come to the SOS Health Clinic in the Badbado camp in Mogadishu. Badbado means "rescue", but a child is far from being safe, even if it reaches the camp.

One of the children is three-year-old Adam. In her desperation, Adam's mother decided to send grandmother Mogay and little Adam to the refugee camp in Mogadishu together with their neighbour. It took the little group around a week to reach the camp from Diinsoor, which is 350 kilometers away. In Diinsoor the food situation is a catastrophe and Adam's parents hoped that he and his grandmother would have a better chance in the camp. Now the grandmother is in charge of taking care of little Adam. She can hardly lift the little boy up when he starts crying. "We try to survive on what we get," says Mogay. 

The problem is that children as little as Adam cannot live off rice alone, which is given out in the camp. "It is not good to be here. I would like to have a little bit more food," says Mogay before Adam gets to see the doctor, who lifts up the little boy's shirt. "He has a fever, a cough and diarrhoea. And he weighs far, far too little," says the doctor, who also looks at the boy's palms. If they are white, this means that he also suffers from anemia. He does.

The doctor gives Mogay medicine and explains to her what to do. It is not easy to take care of little Adam in a camp where water and food is difficult to get. "In October we will go back and try to cultivate the soil. If it starts to rain", says Mogay. But it does not really look like there will be any rain before next year, so it is a plan for the distant future. In the meantime, Mogay wishes for a place where they can live more safely. A short while ago a fight broke out during the food distribution in the camp. Suddenly there was gunfire and ten people were shot. "That was the worst," says Mogay.

Many of the refugees were frightened that just when they thought they had finally arrived at a safe place with food, they ended up in the middle of a shootout. Therefore the camp is now less full, because hundreds of families left after the shooting and now live in small unorganised camps around the centre of Mogadishu, many miles away.

How you can help

You can make a one-off donation directly to our Emergency Relief Programme in East Africa or take out a child sponsorshipto help us to focus on the long-term welfare of children who have no one to care for them as a result of the famine.

Read more stories and interviews about the East Africa Famine:

 Courageous and effective - my colleagues in Somalia 

The food is there - but no one can afford it