Tuk-tuks race in disgorging new victims.

Visitors are sprayed with chlorine on the way out.

In the intensive care unit of the hospital's malnutrition centre, nine beds are tightly packed into a hot, dim room.

All but one are occupied by mothers with their slowly recovering children.

Hamsia Ibrahim, 32, swirls breast milk in a plastic bowl before trickling it into a syringe and feeding it, through a nasal tube, into the stomach of her seven-month-old daughter Shamso.

Her husband and five other children stay in a makeshift camp for the recently uprooted where they arrived last month.

"My other children are hungry all the time, but they are not sick like this," she said of Shamso, whose diarrhoea and vomiting caused her weight to plummet.

She said a local businessman handed out cooked food at the camp a week ago:

"That was the last time we had three meals in a day."


The growth of the camps is accelerating.

There are 133 of the settlements, expanding towards one another across the barren, rocky land.

The UN records new arrivals by the household and says 2,929 arrived in the first week of March.

The figure for the whole of February was 3,967.

The average household is estimated to number six people, meaning roughly 2,500 people are arriving in Baidoa every day. 

By mid-afternoon in the camps, the temperature tilts towards 40 degrees, the hot wind conjures dust devils and the thorny trees provide little shade.

Everyone is hungry at ADC-3, a camp named, ironically, after Somalia's defunct Agricultural Development Corporation that used to distribute surplus grain.

Children lie listless in their families' tattered huts waiting to see if there will be anything to eat today, apart from the cup of sugary black tea that passed for breakfast for most.


Slowly, purposefully Habibo Abdo walked into the camp clutching a bundle of sticks and looking for her relatives.

The old, frail woman had walked for two days with nothing to eat or drink and collapsed in the dirt after taking a deep draught of water offered by a well-meaning resident.

Moments later, her 30-year-old daughter, Dero, was found and sat stroking her mother's arm, cooling her with drops of water.

They, too, had abandoned their home when the crops failed, the food stores ran out and the water ran dry.

In the camps of Baidoa, at least, aid agencies provide clean water and medical treatment, there is food in the city's markets and the possibility of earning money as a labourer or beggar.

But with meteorologists pessimistic about the prospect of rain, hope is an increasingly scarce commodity.

In this part of Somalia — the country's traditional breadbasket where surpluses of sorghum once grew — the 2011 famine is known as 'terimbow', meaning "the time of dying".

This year does not yet have a name.

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