Surviving Somalia: Photographer Ed Ou visits a food project as famine strikes in the East African nation

Aid agencies are struggling to reach the millions facing starvation but assistance is getting through.

Saturday 06 August 2011 00:00

Above: Nadifo Yusuf, aged 25, with her five-month-old child at the New Shabelle Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Bosaso, Somalia. Says photographer Ed Ou: "She fled on the back of a truck with her family after her husband was killed in the south of Somalia. She paid $30 for a truck ride, but was robbed by bandits in the night, which happens to a lot of people – so she'd had to beg for food along the way."

Above right: a mother collects food from Save the Children. "People had to queue for two hours to get food and it was very hot. They get given a bottle of cooking oil, then maybe 15 or 20 packets of a very high-calorie peanut paste specifically designed for children – it's got 500 calories per pack. They also get high-nutrient flour which they then cook up into bread."

Severely malnourished 11-month-old, Naimia Isaq Abdi, at a Stabilisation Centre in Bosaso. She weighs in at 5.5kg. "They had to weigh people to see if they qualified, if they were eligible, as well as tracking whether they were growing – they would weigh the children in these buckets and then measure their arms."

Habibo Ali Mursal, aged 30, lies with her malnourished one-year-old baby, Sharifo Malin Mohamed, who weighs 5kg. "Stabilisation centres are for more extreme cases, for people who are so malnourished they can't eat properly. The nurses pass out water and food but there are some children who have to take food in through the nose, perhaps if they're not conscious."

"The food was supplied by the World Food Programme. Everyone had an identification card which was filled in and basically tracked how big their child was. It's pretty orderly – maybe because it's women and children. They knew they were about to get their food,it wasn't a desperate grab."

"There were 6,000 people just at the New Shabelle camp. On my last day, there was a food hand-out and it seemed like they gave almost all of it out – they got through 50 boxes of peanut paste. Looking at the scope of the food hand-outs, you realised demand outweighed supply."

A Somali woman stands over the only goat she has left in her pen in Karkaar, Somalia. "She had over 60 goats, but they all died in the recent drought."

Above: Yusuf carries water to her tent. "Like any IDP camp they are in a pretty desperate situation. A lot of these camps have existed for some time but recently there's been a big influx. The toilet is an open field right by the water supply."

Below: the New Shabelle camp. "Most of the shacks are made out of sticks – sticks are constructed into domes and then laced with cardboard and fabric, as much as they can."

A new arrival builds a makeshift shelter. "During the time we were there, we met new arrivals. There were maybe about 30 coming each day, but there are many different camps –there are 31 camps just around Bosaso – so it's hard to tell how many people are arriving."

Aniso Osman Hussein, aged 13, with her malnourished brother, Diini Osman Hussein, aged three and weighing 10.5kg, at the stabilisation centre. "People are getting the amount of food they need – it's just there's a lot of people there now that need it. In order for everybody to get enough food, more needs to get there."

A child swings on a tree in the New Shabelle camp. "Maybe the kids don't grasp the gravity of the situation, or maybe it's just that on the ground level, things are still relatively calm. The situation is an emergency, but it's also a slow, drawn-out thing. Life still goes on – as it always does."

Ed Ou was speaking to Holly Williams

To donate to Save the Children's Somalia appeal go to or call 020-7012 6400

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