A miracle in Mogadishu

October 27, 2017
Written by Kieran McConville
Photo by Kieran McConville

Nothing warms the heart like a picture of a smiling child, but when our nutrition team in Somalia met Yasmiin* she had very little to smile about. Then they set to work — and the results were amazing.

In a hunger crisis like the one Somalis have been experiencing throughout 2017, our teams witness some really harrowing sights and hear some desperately sad stories. But what drives them on, day after day, is the belief that they can help change the course of history and make things better. And they believe that because they’ve seen it happen — with kids like Yasmiin*.

Five year old Yasmiin with her mother

Five-year-old Yasmiin being screened at nutrition centre in Mogadishu, Somalia. She was severely acutely malnourished, weighing just 27lbs. Photo: Kieran McConville

Emaciated and distraught

On the morning of March 15th, 2017, Aamiina Hassan* arrived at a Concern emergency nutrition clinic in the suburbs of Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu. She came with her five-year-old daughter Yasmiin, who was emaciated and distraught, weighing just 27lbs. Their story was similar to many — a ten-day nightmare journey from their rural village to the capital in a desperate attempt to find food. Behind them, a desolate and barren landscape ravaged by drought.

“You could see… just how badly malnourished and ill she was.”

A Concern community health worker had earlier discovered Yasmiin in a displacement camp on the outskirts of the city and referred her to the clinic. “You can see from the photographs taken that day just how badly malnourished and ill she was,” recalls Concern’s Hashim Jelle. “We admitted her immediately to our outpatient program.”

And this is where the magic begins.

Bouncing back

Aamiina was given on-the-spot training in how to feed Yasmiin a special high nutrition food supplement and provided with a supply to take home. Additional vitamins and medicine were prescribed, and Aamiina was told to take Yasmiin back to the clinic for weekly checkups over the following two months. The figures from those checkups show her progress.

Girl with MUAC tape around arm

Five-year-old Yasmiin’s arm is measured at a Concern nutrition center to determine how severely she is malnourished. Photo: Kieran McConville

“It’s amazing to witness,” according to Mercy Gitau, Concern’s emergency coordinator in Somalia. “You can literally see kids bouncing back to vitality.”

“I am very blissful for the kind support given by the Concern team to Yasmiin.”

And so it was with Yasmiin. After five weeks she graduated from the emergency feeding program to a supplementary regime. After 11 weeks, she weighed close to what a healthy young girl of her age should, and her childlike appetite for life had returned.

Yasmiin before treatment and after

The best kind of “before and after.” When Yasmiin arrived at our clinic, she was severely malnourished. After nine weeks of treatment, she was a happy, smiley kid again.

Concern in action

Yasmiin’s mom, Aamiina, speaks movingly about how she had never been to a clinic with any of her six children before — simply because there were none near her village that she could afford. She says that one of her sons died with symptoms very similar to Yasmiin’s — and she fully expected her daughter to suffer the same fate.

“I am very blissful for the kind support given by the Concern team to Yasmiin — I was so pessimistic to see my daughter recover.“

While Yasmiin’s remarkable recovery is inspirational, it does not mean that all is good in her world. She still lives in a camp, the family income is at best $3 dollars a day, and their prospects for returning home hang in the balance. But she is alive, she is healthy, and she has a shot at a better future. This is what your Concern does.

*Names have been changed in this story for security reasons.

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