News / Africa

Horn of Africa Children Exposed to Lifetime Trauma

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

Drought, famine, and warfare have profound physical and psychological impacts on children, especially those three years old and under. Malnutrition and disease at these vulnerable ages leave a lasting mark that stretch into adulthood. Around 500,000 children in the Horn of Africa are in need of immediate, life-saving help.

Abdi, 1, is beginning his life in a nightmare.  He is dangerously malnourished, a condition aggravated by chronic diarrhea. During a brief interview with VOA, he and his mother, Qaali Abdi, 30, cannot stop coughing.

"We are suffering. I'm sick, the children are sick, their father is sick - we have nothing," said Qaali Abdi.  "My husband is now in the hospital."

The mother of six explains that Abdi and her family's health woes began when they fled Somalia.

"Where would we sleep? We had no place to sleep. On the road, we were suffering. We have nothing, the wind was blowing heavily, the sun was hot. Many people died along the way," she added.

Abdi and his brothers and sisters have been living for the past month in the Dadaab refugee camp, where tens of thousands of children like him have been streaming in over the past few months.

Malnourished and sick children are showing up in Dadaab and all across the Horn of Africa, poignant reminders of the cruelty of drought, famine, and war.

The problem is daunting, with malnutrition rates skyrocketing. An estimated half-million children in the Horn of Africa need immediate, life-saving assistance.

Olivia Yambi is a representative of the United Nations' children's agency in Kenya.

"The threshold for an emergency is around 15 percent global acute malnutrition," said Yambi.  "In most areas highly affected, we are recording rates of over 35 percent, including in the parts we are visiting in the northern belt of Kenya.  Most of the children who are severely malnourished are very young children, children under the age of three."

And that has serious, long-term implications, says Roselyn Mullo, the European Commission's nutrition expert in charge of the Horn of Africa.

"They will have challenges when it comes to academic proficiency in the future," Mullo explained.  "It would even roll down to, when they reach adulthood, governments will not be able to have productive workers. It will also have an impact on them, particularly girls - when they become mothers, they will not be able to give birth to well-nourished children, something known as the low birth weight children."

Mullo adds that there is need for long-term programs and services to help children develop physiologically and perhaps reverse some of the effects of what they are going through now.

But is it not just malnutrition and other physical calamities that children and their families find debilitating.

Mumino Mohamed and her eight children walked for 18 days to get to Dadaab.  The children were separated from their disabled father while fleeing Somalia.

"My children do not have a father - up to now they are looking.  They are feeling bad because they are missing their father," Mohamed said.

The U.N. children's agency's Yambi says the loss of family members has a dramatic psychological impact on children.

"During the long distances of walking, some parents die on the way, some children die on the way," Yambi explained.  "And children are directly exposed to these very traumatic experiences. It is something that has to be dealt with - that is why we are recommending support for counseling services, to get a feel of how children relate to these issues."

Parents, too, are distressed at their inability to provide their children's basic needs.
Qaali Abdi says she is too weak to even breastfeed Abdi, a basic and key role in a mother's life.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid