Fatuma with her daughter Fatuma at an Action Against Hunger treatment centre in Somalia.

If malnutrition is treated fast, a child has a future

How Fatuma’s 20-month-old daughter Halima survived life-threatening hunger.

Fatuma lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu, Somalia. She married when she was 16 and soon became pregnant. But her husband beat her.

Not long after the birth of her daughter Halima, she became pregnant again and the abuse escalated. “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.

“He told me to leave without the children, but I was still breastfeeding the young one.” In the end, he took Halima.

Fatuma begged for her daughter’s return. She learned that Halima was suffering from diarrhoea, but it was several weeks before her husband finally brought her back.

“Halima was in a bad state. Her skin had turned black. You could tell she was in pain.”

Fatuma, Halima’s mum

Six weeks to save a life

Halima had severe acute malnutrition, the most life-threatening form of hunger. Her hands and feet were swollen, and inflamed patches on her skin had darkened and peeled. Her hair lost its colour, became brittle and started falling out.

Fatuma heard about a nearby Action Against Hunger-funded medical centre that could help her daughter. The next day she was admitted.

With expert care over six weeks, Halima was nursed back to health. She was given therapeutic milk and, later, ready-to-use therapeutic food to help her grow stronger and healthier. Our team also advised Fatuma on the best way to feed Halima and good hygiene practices.

With the treatment she received, Halima has recovered well. Although she may never grow as tall as her peers, Fatuma knows that further delay could have caused permanent physical and learning disabilities, leaving Halima’s life in further danger.

“I am so grateful for the constant support I have received from Action Against Hunger,” says Fatuma.

A brighter future ahead

Three months into Halima’s recovery, Fatuma’s ex-husband came back to demand care of his children.

With the support of her uncle, Fatuma took some of the before and after photos taken by Action Against Hunger and presented them at a court case. She was granted full custody of her children with the support from the elders and her uncle.

“It’s hard for me that I have to occasionally fight for my rights as a mother to be with my children but my determination to keep them healthy and happy is what drives me to look out for them every day,” explains Fatuma.

This winter, we urgently need to reach more malnourished children whose lives are in danger. Please help us ensure they have a future too. 

Donate now

£42 could provide six weeks of live-saving therapeutic food for a malnourished child.

Help more children like Halima

Names have been changed to protect identities. 

Your generous support helps us to save the lives of malnourished children around the world. In Somalia, Halima was able to recover thanks to investment from UK aid into the health facility where she was treated, part of the SHINE project. We’re also grateful for the support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, who enable mums like Fatuma to tell us their stories about their children’s transformation thanks to the work of Action Against Hunger.