Child­birth chal­lenges in the con­flict zone

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By KUN LI in Bosaso, So­ma­lia For China Daily

Baby Faad­umo lies qui­etly with her big, dark eyes wide open. Her tiny head and dainty fists rest on a nest of blan­kets, wrapped in a shawl. To keep her warm, the bun­dle has been placed in a black plas­tic bag.

Faad­umo is 15 days old and was born pre­ma­turely at seven months. Her mother, who was only 15, died dur­ing child­birth. Ideally, Faad­umo should be kept in an in­cu­ba­tor. But here in Bosaso Gen­eral Hospi­tal in the state of Punt­land, So­ma­lia, few things are ideal and a plas­tic bag and blan­kets are the best doc­tors can do to keep her warm — and alive.

“We need in­cu­ba­tors and our staff also need train­ing on how to use them,” said Doc­tor Mohamed Said, the pe­di­a­tri­cian at the hospi­tal.

Be­sides be­ing pre­ma­ture, Faad­umo is also mal­nour­ished. She weighed 1 kilo­gram at birth, and weighs not much more — 1.1kg — now.

When asked about the chal­lenges his countr y faces, Ab­d­i­rizak Hersi Has­san, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Min­istry of Health in Punt­land, sums them up in two words: “Too many.”

Since the col­lapse of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in 1991, So­ma­lia has been in an al­most con­stant state of war and its health sys­tems are mostly sup­ported by de­vel­op­ment part­ners and funded by donors. UNICEF alone sup­ports 70 per­cent of So­ma­lia’s health fa­cil­i­ties. “With­out such sup­port,” said Has­san, “the health sys­tems will col­lapse.”

At the ma­ter­nity ward in the mother and child health clinic in 100 Bush In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons camp, Ma­lyuum Osman, 29, rests with her one-day-old new­born, Mohamed. Over the years she has suf­fered two mis­car­riages and seen t wo chil­dren die — a daugh­ter from di­ar­rhea and a boy in an ac­ci­dent.

De­spite the ba­sic con­di­tions here, the clinic, staffed by 14 midwives and nurses, is do­ing won­ders for the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion of 15,000 peo­ple liv­ing in the var­i­ous dis­place­ment camps. It is one of the many clin­ics sup­ported by UNICEF un­der the Joint Health and Nutri­tion Pro­gram, which helps women, chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

How­ever, there are no firm plans for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the pro­gram in 2017 and beyond. UNICEF, along with part­ners, is mo­bi­liz­ing re­sources to keep the health ser­vices open and the 2,000 health work­ers cov­ered un­der the pro­gram — out of 3,000 in the en­tire coun­try — paid.

Soon Ma­lyuum will be able to go home with the baby to her three other chil­dren. The fam­ily of five, now in­clud­ing baby Mohamed, sur­vives on $2 a day she makes by cook­ing for the work­ers at con­struc­tion sites. But she re­mains op­ti­mistic.

“I pray to Al­lah to grant my chil­dren health,” she says. “I want a good life — a beau­ti­ful life — for us all.”

PHOTO PRO­VIDED BY UNESCO

Baby Faad­umo, who was born pre­ma­turely, is kept warm us­ing a black plas­tic bag.

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