Malnourished Somali Child Restored To Health

On the left, a malnourished Sadak Hassan Abdi soon after his long journey to escape famine in Somalia. On the right, Sadak five weeks later.

(Copyright: WFP/Siegfried Modola and WFP/Hundubey Ahmed

Back in July, Sadak Hassan Abdi, aged 18 months, was acutely malnourished and his mother was afraid he would die. But a combination of hospital treatment and special food from WFP has restored him to health and provided a striking illustration of how the right action can be critical in the Horn of Africa.

NAIROBI -- Sadak Hassan Abdi was 18 months old and in a grave state of health, getting weaker by the day, when his mother and father made a difficult choice.  They would have to split the family;  his mother, Hukun, would take him to find help. 

Being pastoralists, the family had owned about 40 goats.  But the drought meant that the condition of the animals had deteriorated, and their value dropped.  The family slaughtered a few to feed themselves, but the rest perished, leaving the Abdi family with next to nothing. Without money for the whole family to travel, Hukun left home in July with Sadak, his 2-year-old sister Iglan and 7-year-old brother Najib.  Hassan Abdi remained with their other two children, Istar, age 5, and Mohamed, age 4.

The journey to find help took 14 days, with Hukun paying for donkey cart rides when available and walking the rest of the way.  They headed for Ethiopia, believing that things there might be better.  However, when they arrived at the border, they found a WFP registration centre set up for internally displaced people, following the declaration of famine in parts of Somalia.

Acute malnutrition

That was when Sadak and Hukun met WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd, who had come to see first-hand the plight of people forced to move to find food. Hukun told them, "I am afraid my child will die".

Recognising the seriousness of the boy's condition as acutely malnourished, WFP immediately referred Sadak for medical treatment. The nearest place to receive that was in neighbouring Ethiopia, where Sadak received emergency hospital care.

Sadak soon showed signs of improvement and was discharged from hospital. However, he was still moderately malnourished and, so too, was his sister Iglan. Therefore Hukun brought the family straight back to the WFP centre in Somalia, knowing that she could receive the help she needed back in her homeland.

Restored to health

Sadak and Iglan were given a ready-to-use supplementary food called Plumpy’Sup, which has restored them to health.  In addition to that the family received high energy biscuits as temporary emergency rations, and since then WFP has provided a ration food basket consisting of maize, pulses, fortified vegetable oil and Super Cereal, a fortified high-protein blend of soy and maize meal.

Hukun told WFP she has now sent word for her husband and two other children to join them so the family can be reunited. She described her situation over the last months as this, “I see two pictures. The one behind me has war, drought, no rain, and no help in a hopeless area. But in front of me I see another, one of expectation and the restoration of life -- but only because I could join this life-saving programme and I have a ration card. Now we have enough to eat and can get food every month.”

She went on to say that she expects other children suffering from malnutrition to recover. And for that, she thanks God.

Photo middle left (copyright WFP/Siegfried Modola) shows WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd meeting Sadak and Hukun in July; photo bottom right shows a recovered Sadak and Hukun with WFP Programme Officer Hundubey Ahmed in late August.