Somalia Famine: Measles Epidemic Hits Mogadishu

One hospital has seen six times the number of measles cases.

Sept. 14, 2011 -- On our first trip back to Somalia since the end of July, we head toward the newest center of gravity in this crisis, Mogadishu's hospital.

The problem is no longer just the famine, it's what comes with it when hunger weakens children's tiny frames. There is a crowd of people outside Banadir Hospital and measles is one of the main reasons parents are bringing their children.

Inside the hospital, there is a crush of families waiting for help.

Dr. Shafie Gimal, one of only four doctors seeing children, a total of 300 every day, says the hospital has seen six times the number of measles cases this year than last.

How to Help

Gimal takes us upstairs toward the quarantined rooms, where they are desperately trying to keep the measles from spreading, and shows us the one decades-old X-ray machine the hospital has.

Then we get to one of those quarantined rooms and see a boy with glassy eyes. His forehead is burning and he has a horrendous cough. His older sister sits with him in bed.

The doctor assures us that the boy will be fine.

"I am very happy ... because he's here in the hospital," the boy's sister tell us.

In the U.S., children have been getting the MMR vaccine to prevent measles since the late 1960s.

But here, there are no proper vaccinations because there is no real government. There hasn't been one in 20 years -- leaving an often violent power vacuum.

The power struggle has made it impossible to break the cycle of famine. But inside the tiny clinics all over Somalia we discover a race playing out. Humanitarian workers are risking their lives to offer free vaccinations.

We visit a clinic where Somali mothers have lined up because they know this is one of the few places where they can actually get vaccines for their children. It is a line of defense built one baby at a time.

"No one should be dying of measles in this day and age," says Dawn Blalock, A U.N. humanitarian worker from California.