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Niger: Saminou’s amazing progress

I met eight-month-old Saminou three weeks ago. He was being treated in one of our clinics for severely malnourished children. His eyes were sunken and too large for his head, his ribs jutted through his skin. He lay in his mother’s arms, his little chest rising and falling rapidly, in pain. I was worried about returning to the clinic and finding out what had happened to him.

As soon as I arrived at the clinic I asked after him. I’m happy to report that Saminou was released from the clinic having put on over 1kg of weight.

I was keen to find him and see how he was doing, so I set off in search of him. As I approached the village word got out that we had come to find Saminou. By the time the car stopped, not only were we surrounded by children from the village, but Aicha, Saminou’s mother appeared holding a child in her arms. It took me a couple of moments to register that it was the same child I’d seen three weeks earlier. The gaunt face that had been permanently etched in my mind had gone. There instead was a healthier, happier baby.

Aicha couldn’t have been more different either. When I first met her she seemed not only worried, but also ashamed ashamed that she was unable to feed her child what he needed to survive. Now she was lively, all smiles and a proud mother. I sat down and chatted with her, and played with Saminou marveling at the transformation he’d made in such a short length of time.

The next thing I knew one of the village elders appeared clutching two live chickens and presented them to me as a thank you for making Saminou better. It was an honour and an embarrassment. I had nothing to do with treating Saminou all I’d done was take a few photos. It was the tireless doctors and nurses at the clinic who had nursed him back to health. But it was very obvious that there were many more hungry stomachs than my own in this village that could do with this feast. After a little discussion it was decided that the chickens would stay in the village.

As I waved goodbye to Saminou, Aicha and the rest of the villagers I made myself forget about the chronic poverty that they and two thirds of the population live in and shared a small moment of joy with a mother who’d almost lost the fourth of her eight children.

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