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Somalis Flee to Kenya in Search of Food, Water, Aid

July 25, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
A United Nations donors conference set for Wednesday in Nairobi will try to raise as much as $1 billion in aid for the food crisis plaguing the Horn of Africa. Independent Television News' Marin Geissler reports from Kenya where hundred of thousands of refugees have fled from Somalia in search of food, water and medical care.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Much-needed aid is on the way to more than 11 million famine victims in East Africa. The World Bank today pledged to donate some $500 million in assistance to the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa.

Kevin Rudd, Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, witnessed conditions firsthand today at a U.N. World Food Program camp in Somalia. He warned that the situation is dire.

KEVIN RUDD, Australian foreign minister: This will be five times as bad come the end of the year if we don’t act now. It’s as simple as that. People like the Brits, the Canadians, ourselves, we put our best foot forward and there are other countries as well. But we do need more. And so it is a direct appeal to folk across the world, governments across the world to do their bit.

JEFFREY BROWN: A U.N. donors conference set for Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, will try to raise as much as a billion dollars in aid money.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled from Somalia into Kenya.

Martin Geissler of Independent Television News is spending time at three hospitals there this week.

And be advised: This story contains disturbing images.

MARTIN GEISSLER: This is the sharp end of the biggest humanitarian crisis on Earth, the intensive care unit at Hagadera Hospital in Dadaab. The children they treat here have made it out of Somalia, but only just. The influx of refugees has put a huge pressure on space and staff. They only admit the most serious cases.

Today, like every day, the ward is full to bursting. As we film, the mother arrived with her baby. When doctors saw Minage, even they were shocked.

MAN: Oh, there is a very sick child.

Please, and give me — give me the (INAUDIBLE) please.

So, this is a child very weak, very, very weak and severely (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN GEISSLER: His age, just seven months, but has the haggard face of a sick old man.

MAN: I’m going to need some light. Put some light.

MARTIN GEISSLER: He is so dehydrated, the staff struggle to find a vein. Eventually, they connected a drip and gave him vital fluids. The syringe was bigger than its tiny arm. Bewildered and terrified, he couldn’t muster the strength to cry, just a haunting silent scream.

If this child hadn’t come in here…

DR. JOHN KIOGORA, International Rescue Committee: Yes.

MARTIN GEISSLER: … would he have been alive tonight?

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: No, no, no. No, no, I don’t think. I don’t think. Very lucky he has actually come to the hospital. Very lucky.

MARTIN GEISSLER: But now you think good chance?

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: Yes, there is a good chance, very good chance.

MARTIN GEISSLER: It’s amazing, isn’t it?

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: Maybe tomorrow, the next day, you see the chance going up.

MARTIN GEISSLER: It’s amazing.

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: Yes. Yes.

MARTIN GEISSLER: It really is amazing. Yesterday, we found Aden in this ward. He’s 3, believe it or not. He weighs less than 12.5 pounds, a healthy child’s weight at six months.

His grandmother says the family walked here from Somalia. It took them four weeks. This morning, the nasal feeding tube was gone. Aden was sitting up and drinking. He put weight on. With a little help and the right care, the human body can work miracles.

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: This is the best gift I think I can give to any human being. I’m very much joyful and very glad and grateful, because, at the end of the day, that affects somebody’s life. And at the end of the day, the child will do very well. It gives me the inner peace and joy.

MARTIN GEISSLER: Aden’s father wanted to take him home. He had other children to look after. Aden has a twin. The doctors wouldn’t let him go. They sent an ambulance out to bring the brother in for a checkup. This is where the family live, seven of them in one stifling tent.

How many people?

Even as Aden survives, he will grow up without a mother. She died on the journey down. They buried her at the roadside and carried on. In the hospital, the twins were reunited. Just look at the difference in size.

Tonight in the hospital, the hard work continues, the horrors of Somalia’s famine countered by the hope that this place brings. Minaj makes a wonderful noise.

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: Because of malnutrition…

MARTIN GEISSLER: Screaming. He’s screaming.

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: Yes. The child is crying.

MARTIN GEISSLER: It’s good.

DR. JOHN KIOGORA: Yes, it’s a good sign.

MARTIN GEISSLER: The crucial first few hours have gone well, but there’s a long fight ahead.