Safiya lives with her six children in Yabelo, Ethiopia, including her 11-month-old daughter Fardosa. The pillar of her family, Safiya remained strong when Fardosa became ill and wasn’t afraid to ask for help. She’s a persevering mother and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to caring for her children.
Like so many people in the region, her family faces the immediate consequences of climate change. Through dry seasons, the few cows the family own – which they depend on for their food and income – aren’t able to produce enough to feed them. The long, dry seasons are dangerous for the family, especially for young Fardosa.
Fardosa’s life-threatening battle with malnutrition
Safiya became worried when Fardosa stopped gaining weight.
“I feel so sad and bury my face in my hands when I see my child getting weak,” she says.
Ever since Fardosa was born, Safiya struggled to make her gain weight. She did everything she could for her daughter, but her condition worsened.
“I noticed that my child was getting thinner,” explains Safiya. “She couldn’t get fatter, she only got skinnier.”
Safiya looked for help in every clinic or hospital she found but no one could tell her what was wrong with her child or how to cure her. She does everything in her power to make Fardosa feel better.
“I collect every possible thing I own and sell them to try to buy Fardosa what she needs.”
Safiya eventually came to Yabelo General Hospital where she was able to admit Fardosa to an Action Against Hunger-supported treatment centre. The medical staff at the centre immediately diagnosed Fardosa with severe malnutrition.
“I took her to different places but they couldn’t help me until I brought to Action Against Hunger’s treatment centre. They’re finally helping her, giving her milk and everything she needs.”
An ongoing battle
Since being discharged from hospital the first time, Fardosa has been admitted to the treatment centre three times. Every time she was sent home, she unfortunately became sick again.
“I’ve never been in a hospital before, this is my only child that has been this sick,” says Safiya. “I’ve cried a lot to God about Fardosa’s illness, because I have never faced this kind of problem with any of my children.”
Safiya would feed Fardosa as much milk as she could at home, but she was only ever able to recover at the treatment centre.
“I just feel worried and sad for not being able to manage this,” says Safiya. “I have no sickness. I just feel so sad because my dream is for her to get better for me. I don’t want to sit here for no reason, I want my child to get better, and I want to go back to my family.”
The doctors at the centre are now following up on Fardosa’s case to identify the cause of her persistent malnutrition. Fardosa and Safiya were given a bed at the clinic and Fardosa started receiving therapeutic milk in a large green jug assigned to babies that need extra nutritious food.
Safiya constantly worries about her other children that she leaves at home, but she stays by Fardosa’s side for hours, scared of letting her go cold.
“I have to stay here because my child is not well, but I also have to get back to the rest of my children and it worries me a lot,” she says.
“I have been here for days, so I’m not sure if my children have enough food to eat at home. My mother is with them but she is an old lady.”
The nurses attend to Fardosa with regular check-ups similar to the ones performed when Fardosa first arrived – measuring her mid-upper arm circumference used to assess if she has malnutrition, testing her heart and lungs, measuring her attentiveness by snapping fingers near her eyes and ears, and checking if she has any peeling skin or swelling.
Safiya became more hopeful that her daughter would survive when she saw her daughter open her eyes a little bit wider. Beforehand, Fardosa couldn’t even keep her eyes open due to the severe exhaustion which led her mother to think she was on the brink of death.
“When I brought Fardosa here, she only weighed 3kg. Now she’s 4.5kg thanks to the help at the stabilisation treatment,” says Safiya. “I feel so happy that I found help.”
According to her doctors, Fardosa suffers from severe acute malnutrition – the most life-threatening form of hunger- as well as a large number of other complications. She has a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause delayed growth, bow legs, and weakness.
Although Fardosa is receiving treatment, her condition is still critical and she’s being given oxygen in a tank. Despite her daughter critical condition, Safiya hasn’t lost hope that her daughter will have a healthy life and a happy future.