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We Can't Turn our Backs on Mogadishu's Children

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No parent should have to watch their child die. One of the first mothers I met in Sigale camp, Mogadishu, told me how she had had to do just that.

Fleeing from her home because of the drought, unable to feed her children, she trekked seven days with her four children to Mogadishu to find refuge. On the way her youngest child, still breastfeeding, died. There was nothing she could do. She looked exhausted, and hadn't eaten herself for four days but was determined to save the lives of her three remaining children.

Hadija, another mother I met, had lost two of her children, aged five and ten on the long journey to Mogadishu. The families I met who had just arrived had a glazed look in their eyes, they'd survived unspeakable ordeals and though they'd reached Mogadishu, still faced a fight for survival.

Sigale camp, the old front line of the conflict is now the home to 17,000 people. Families huddled in makeshift tents amongst the ruins of bullet-ridden houses, having trekked days or weeks to get to this relative sanctuary. But on arrival there was almost no help for them, until a few days ago when Save the Children's frontline staff distributed food vouchers and set up a health clinic with doctors and nurses to treat the most severely malnourished children and pregnant mums.

Our amazing staff are literally saving children's lives, often at great risk to themselves. Working in Mogadishu is tough and our staff are under constant threat, but we can make a difference even in these most difficult circumstances.

More widely in Somalia, Save the Children is scaling up our programme to reach over 200,000 children including areas in South Central Somalia. We're providing food and health services in some of the toughest parts of the county, but we need more funds.

Tragically, even though the need is overwhelming, the international community is not yet adequately funding organisations like Save the Children who are able and willing to make a difference of the ground. With the exception of the UK government, most donors are not doing enough. Despite all the handwringing we will hear from leaders in New York this week, there's still not enough pledges. We need action not words.

In the coming weeks the struggle for survival could get worse. The rains could bring relief to farmers but for the families in the makeshift camps in Mogadishu, they could bring more misery.

Already many of the children have diarrohea and there are already some reports by the UN of cholera. With thousands of Mogadishu's IDP children severely malnourished and with poor sanitation, children's lives will be even more at risk from waterborne diseases.

Despite all of these challenges in Mogadishu and more widely in Somalia, I firmly believe it is possible to make a massive difference and to save children's lives. We need the international community to step up to the mark and fund those of us on the ground and to do this urgently.

Time is running out.

This post was originally published on 09/21/2011 and is being re-featured for HuffPost Global Motherhood.

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