Six Weeks to Save a Life
If malnutrition is treated fast, a child has a future
Fatuma with 20-month-old Halima. Photo: Fardosa Hussein, Action Against Hunger Mogadishu, Somalia.
Meet Halima. She’s a 20-month-old girl in Mogadishu, Somalia, where years of conflict and severe drought have left millions in a state of food insecurity. When her mother, Fatuma, brought her to an Action Against Hunger treatment centre, she was suffering from life-threatening malnutrition – her skin inflamed and peeling, her hands and feet swollen, and her hair falling out. Over the course of six weeks, Halima was brought back to health.
This is her story.
Names have been changed to protect identities. This story was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fatuma lives in a camp for internally displaced persons in Mogadishu, Somalia. She lost her parents at a young age and married at 16. Soon after, she gave birth to a baby girl, Halima. But instead of the happy family life she dreamed of, Fatuma found herself trapped in a cycle of violence.
In her first few days at the Action Against Hunger centre, Halima was monitored carefully. She was gently introduced to special therapeutic milk and her skin condition was treated with ointment. Every week of her treatment, she was given a health check where she was weighed and measured.
Action Against Hunger’s treatment approach for malnutrition is so effective that, after initial stabilisation as in-patients, children can often continue their care from home.
With expert care, after three weeks, Halima is showing signs of recovery. After further weight and height checks and vital measurement of the circumference of her mid-upper arm, she is able to leave the in-patient centre and transfer to outpatient care.
By the time Halima leaves the stabilisation centre, she is in a much better state than when she first arrived. She can now sit up on her own and is interacting with her mother. Her hair is still discoloured, and sometimes she can be a little irritable, but it’s clear that the Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food is making a difference.
Fatuma and her children live with her uncle in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), alongside hundreds of others in difficult, unsanitary conditions. Her uncle runs a shop outside the camp and is their primary caretaker.
At home, Halima is in good health and is smiling and bubbly. She’s very happy to be playing with her toys again.
Fatuma is also cheerful, despite all she has been through. She says: “Halima is now learning how to walk. I think it’s never too late. She has been through a lot, but I’m making the necessary steps to teach her how to do everything. How to love, trust and be the playful and happy child that she was before. I am learning how to be patient with her, as I watch her slowly come back to normal. I am so happy to see her in her best state again.”
This week, Halima’s final weight measurement and MUAC (mid upper-arm circumference) test is done at the Maternal and Health Centre. All is well. Halima is finally discharged from the centre.
In the final week of Halima’s treatment, Fatuma was registered for a two-month cash grant to support vulnerable members in the community, including mothers with children being treated for malnutrition living in the IDP camp. Fatuma says: “The money I received has changed our dietary plan. I cook balanced meals and I ensure that Halima is well fed. For my son Mohamed, I have been able to buy enough diapers. I also ensure that he breastfeeds well to keep him healthy.”
This winter, we urgently need to reach more malnourished children whose lives are in danger. Please help us give them a chance at a healthy future.
Around the world, 2.3 million children under the age of five die every year because their diets lack the nutrition they need, risking their ability to fight infection. You could help save a life in just six weeks.