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One boy’s road to recovery

The story behind the picture

It’s a striking image.

A little boy holds your gaze. Half his face is blurred. And the headline reads STOP CHILDREN WASTING AWAY. Check it out on the webpage for our East Africa Food Crisis appeal.

But who is the young boy looking back at you?

Ahmed’s story

He’s Ahmed*, age one, from Somalia. But while his gentle expression warms your heart, underneath it is a story of deadly peril.

Born into a food crisis, Ahmed has already had to battle life-threatening malnutrition.

His mum, Nala*, explains that Ahmed’s family faces a constant struggle for food.

“The drought means there aren’t enough jobs,” she says. “And when there’s no income, there’s no food for our family.”

On top of that, food prices in the local market have gone up. The family has had to cut down on meals.

“We have two meals a day – breakfast and lunch. We don’t have dinner because we don’t have enough food. We used to buy milk for the children but now we have stopped that as well.”

Hunger strikes

Nala has to pay for drinking water. When she couldn’t afford it, she had no choice but to give Ahmed dirty water. He soon became ill.

“He was sick for about seven days and he was getting weak,” says Nala.

Her neighbour told her about a stabilisation centre for malnourished children, run by Save the Children, where Ahmed could get treatment.

Road to recovery

photo: Ahmed holds a sachet of life-saving peanut paste with his mum, Nala, at a stabilisation centre we run for malnourished children in Puntland, Somalia (Sacha Myers / Save the Children).

“When we arrived, they weighed him and said he was malnourished,” said Nala. “They gave him [therapeutic] milk, peanut paste and medication.”

A few days on a special milk formula followed by an 6–8 week course of high-nutrient peanut paste is a simple but amazingly effective treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Within just five days, Ahmed’s energy levels had started to pick up dramatically.

And that’s the day the photos of little Ahmed were taken.

“When I first brought him here, he was unable to play or move around. But now he’s had the milk and the peanut paste he’s able to talk to me and play,” says Nala.

The power of you

Ahmed and Nala’s fight for survival is far from unique.

Right now, severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of 1.7 million children in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Our teams are getting life-saving treatment to dangerously malnourished children, like Ahmed. And we help struggling families with cash support, improve water supplies and support parents to set up small businesses.

We urgently need to reach more children battling malnutrition. And to support families and communities to recover.

Your support makes that possible.

* We’ve changed Ahmed and Nala’s names to help keep them safe.

Photo at top of page: Ahmed at a stabilisation centre we run in Puntland, Somalia, where Ahmed has started to recover from malnutrition (Sacha Myers/Save the Children). 

One boy's road to recovery