ERIGAVO, SOMALILAND —
As the breakaway republic of Somaliland grapples with a severe drought, medical workers are struggling to aid people left weakened by malnourishment and hunger.
A 70-year-old hospital in Erigavo, the capital of the Sanaag region, is operating beyond full capacity to treat people affected by the drought. And it's the only hospital in the region.
The drought has left tens of thousands of children acutely malnourished. In desperate need of treatment, they are checked as they lie on the beds in this stabilization center ward.
Ismail Saleban Bowkah, the hospital's director, said most of the children admitted for care come from rural areas.
"The drought forced most pastoralists to move from one area into another.Some came to the cities. But most of the malnourished children admitted here, are from the rural area," Bowkah said.
Aydarus Salah, a 14-month-old boy, weighed just over six kilograms (13 pounds) when he was brought to the hospital from the Darar IDP camp. His mother, fighting back tears, said her son was suffering from severe diarrhea and malnutrition.
Dr. Abdishakur Saleban Warsame said Aydarus is improving and now weighs 7.2 kg (15.8 pounds).
"He was very weak when he was referred here. His weight and height were too low, we put him in the stabilization center as he was in the severely malnourished cafeteria," Warsame said. "The initial phase, he could not take the feeding or the milk, so we inserted the NG tube to increase his feeding, now he still has the NG tube."
Medical officials said some families in the drought-stricken area cannot afford to bring their children to local medical centers. But doctors encourage parents to make the trip if they can.
"In rural areas, sometimes families with malnourished children are not able to bring them to hospitals," Bowkah said. "So, for example, if a mother has 10 kids, and five of them are malnourished, we beg her to bring the sick children to a hospital."
The United Nations has said more than 6 million people across Somalia and Somaliland are in need of help due to the extended drought, which shows no signs of ending.