Week 1: A difficult beginning

life threatening malnutrition
Fahma a nurse at the centre does screening on Halima as her mother Fatuma watches. Photo by: Fardosa Hussein, Action Against Hunger Mogadishu, Somalia.

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.

When Fatuma became pregnant again soon after Halima’s birth, the abuse escalated. Despite the income he earned as a bus driver, her husband Hassan suffered from a drug addiction and failed to provide for his young family. “We fought over how to cover the medical and household bills,” Fatuma says. “I tried pleading with him to provide for us and to take good care of us but instead he hit me and the children. After a while, I’d had enough. I wanted to leave the chaos behind and I had to get away,” says Fatuma. In the end, Hassan left with their daughter, Halima.

Fatuma begged for Halima’s return, but it was several weeks before she was finally brought home, her physical state severely deteriorated. Her hands and feet were swollen due to fluid retention, and inflamed patches on her skin had darkened and peeled. Her hair was faded and brittle, and had begun falling out.

Hearing about Halima’s plight, a woman in the neighbourhood told Fatuma about an Action Against Hunger-funded medical centre in Hodan that could help her daughter. Fatuma brought Halima to the centre the next morning. She was diagnosed with Kwashiorkor – a form of severe protein malnutrition characterized by swelling of the hands and feet, an enlarged liver, and painful sores on the skin, making her vulnerable to life-threatening diseases. She was admitted immediately for treatment.

Around the world, 2.3 million children under the age of five die every year because their diets lack the nutrition to keep them healthy and safe from preventable diseases. But if malnutrition is treated fast, a child has a chance at a healthy future.

This winter, please help us reach children suffering from life-threatening malnutrition. It takes an average of just six weeks of treatment to save a child’s life.