Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Somali 7-month-old weighs the same as newborn

Mihag Gedi Farah is 7 months old, and weighs as little as a newborn with the weathered skin of an old man.
His mother managed to get him to a field hospital in a Kenyan refugee camp after a weeklong odyssey, but the baby's anguished eyes, hollow cheeks and fragile limbs show just how severe Somalia's famine is becoming.
Officials have warned that 800,000 children could die across the Horn of Africa, and aid workers are rushing to bring help to dangerous and previously unreached regions of drought-ravaged Somalia.
Mihag's sunken face brings new urgency to their efforts and raises concerns about how many children like him remain in Somalia, far from the feeding tubes and doctors at this Kenyan refugee camp.
His fragile skin crumples like thin leather under the pressure of his mother's hands, as she touches the hollows where a baby's chubby cheeks should be.
Sirat Amine, a nurse nutritionist with the International Rescue Committee, puts the little boy's odds of survival at just 50-50. Mihag weighs just 7 pounds, 8 ounces (3.4 kilograms) when a boy his age should weigh three times that.
"We never tell the mother, of course, that their baby might not make it," the nurse says. "We try to give them hope."
Mihag is the youngest of seven children in his family. His mother brought him along with four of his siblings on the journey from Kismayo to northern Kenya after all their sheep and cattle died because of drought.
Like the tens of thousands of other Somalis fleeing starvation, the family traveled by foot, other times catching rides with passing trucks, cars or buses.
His mother, Asiah Dagane, isn't sure of her age but appears in her mid-30s. She sits at her baby's bedside with little to say: "In my mind I'm not well. My baby is sick. In my head I am also sick," she says softly.More.

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