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Healthcare for vulnerable children in Somalia

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As a parent, it’s one thing to watch your child’s health weaken. But to feel powerless in how you can respond, and without access to health services to alleviate their suffering, it is another level of torment altogether.

Iqro knows this feeling all too well. This strong and resilient Somalian mum of four spent her early years of motherhood watching her first three children battle bout after bout of life-threatening malnutrition and diarrhoea. Her heart broke to watch them suffer.

Somalia is a country facing extreme poverty. Decades of widespread internal conflict, a lack of a stable government and infrastructure, and consecutive seasons of low or no rain have impacted every area of life. These several decades of devastation in Somalia have left the country without vital resources and infrastructure.

If you're a woman in Somalia you are only expected to live to 56, a far cry from the 84 years an Australian woman will live to. (It's even lower for Somalian men, 53 compared with 80 for Australian men.) If you're a woman giving birth, your life is even more precarious: one in 12 women die every year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

But it is babies and children who are the most vulnerable. The infant mortality rate in Somalia is 79 1000 live births, over 20 times higher than that of Australia (3.6/1000 births). And a heartbreaking 1 in 8 children in Somalia won't live past their fifth birthday.

Often, basic, cost-effective treatments, or the simple sharing of knowledge that can improve hygiene, nutrition and health, are all that is needed to make a huge difference. Sadly, these things are out of reach for many parents and their children.

Somalia: the statistics

56/53

Life expectancy for women/men (compared to 84/80 in Australia)

1 in 12

Deaths from pregnancy and childbirth

1 in 8

Children who die before 5th birthday

For Iqro, she was fortunate to be able to linked with a local care group at the time she was having her fourth baby. The group, run by volunteer leaders trained by TEAR's partner in Somalia, Medair, was a safe and supportive space for women to share, learn and be equipped to respond to their baby's or children's health issues.

The care group also encourage people women are accessing support during pregnancy and teach them important hygiene practices that can reduce the incidence of infection and diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and measles.

The Care Group leader encouraged Iqro to exclusively breastfeed her new baby, and regularly attend a health clinic - simple strategies that made a huge difference, meaning that her youngest child got a better start to life than his siblings. And the friendship and education Iqro received through the group has certainly made life so much better for her and her children.

Iqro says: “I am now an ambassador because I also teach any mother who delivers [a baby] in the neighbourhood to exclusively breastfeed their children."
“Now my child is 19 months old and he is the healthiest and the strongest among my children. He has not suffered from diarrhoea,” Iqro shared.

It's amazing how when a community comes together to learn and support each other, huge strides can be made. It not only leads to healthier children, but to parents that can learn to not just survive, but thrive - in the way God intended for all of us.

Now my child is 19 months old and he is the healthiest and the strongest among my children.

Iqro, Somalian mother
Somaliapic1

Why your support matters

Through TEAR's partner Medair's Care Groups project, around 1,100 volunteers are currently active in educating families about better health practices. Your support can make a huge difference - and save lives.

With your support and Medair’s influence, the love of God is at work in the strengthening of local relationships based on acts of genuine care for each other. This means the next generation of Somalis stand to gain better health and experience hope and restoration.

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Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).