Fighting Kala-azar: Caritas Somalia Health Centre changes lives in Baidoa
A boy receives treatment for Kala-azar in the Caritas centre
by David Omwoyo
Hawo Salad, her two-year-old daughter looks emaciated and sleepy. Yet her stomach is swollen, leaving the impression of a child overfed. But the wounds on her belly, visible ribs, tiny legs and hands speak otherwise.
“It was her father,” Habibo says pointing at the wounds, “he was treating her stomach problem by placing a hot iron on it. When she did not recover after four weeks, I decided to bring her to this centre.”
Caritas Nurse Abdullahi Mumin explained that it is a tradition among Somalis to treat all stomach ailments by placing a hot iron or smouldering embers on the belly. He himself has scars on his stomach inflicted when he suffered a bout of diarrhoea as a child and his father administered the same treatment.
“We are torn between treating the wounds, administering food supplements to the seriously emaciated, and treating the real cause,” said Nurse Abdullahi.
It is a complicated matter in a region where basic infrastructures and security are lacking. The patient is supposed to get a daily injection for 30 days, but the Caritas centre is an outpatient facility and some of the patients have travelled 75 km.
“Providing food besides treatment to these patients has been a good decision. Since they normally come from far-away villages, to enable the young patients accompanied by one of the parents or a close relative, to be welcomed by a local family, we secure a fixed amount of rice, beans, oil, sugar and tea leaves.” said Davide Bernocchi, Caritas Somalia’s director.
Little Amino was one such case. When she was brought into the medical centre, the nurses realized she was just too weak to be injected or given any medication. Her immediate need was high-energy food, then first aid for the wounds, before administrating an injection for Kala-azar.
The seven-year-old girl can hardly walk, she talks inaudibly and her pain does not leave her enough energy to even cry. That she walked 35 km to the medical centre is hard to imagine.
But she is glad that despite the hardship they had to endure her daughter will be treated.
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