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What does it take to save a child’s life?

12 January 2023, Impact of Our Work, Voices from the Field, Climate

Helping a child along the road from malnutrition to good health 

Twenty-seven-year old Aasha* has seen what it takes to help a child recover from severe acute malnutrition – through the experience of her son Guled*. At just 10 months old, Guled had diarrhoea and was severely malnourished.

A pastoralist, Aasha’s income was gravely impacted by Somalia’s long running drought. Bereft, she couldn’t take her son to the hospital because she didn’t have enough money. 

“I struggled to get here, financially it was hard to go to any hospital. Luckily the nearest Maternal Child Health Centre was able to refer me and help me to get to the stabilisation centre,” Aasha says.

The help of donors enabled the Save the Children local team to provide transport to the nearest malnutrition stabilisation facility, where mum and baby were able to receive support. 

A place where children can recover

Aasha cradles Guled, while being fed therapeutic food at the stabilisation centre

The stabilisation centre is a place of recovery for children like Guled. There, Aasha and her baby were given three meals a day. Guled was given a ward bed and underwent surveillance testing to check for malnutrition, and monitor his weight, appetite, and respiratory rate, among others. He received therapeutic food, nutrition treatment and medicine to help him recover.

Just as important, Guled also received toys and blankets, hygiene kits and a space where he could play. To support her baby’s continuous road to health, Aasha received breastfeeding education and training. All these services are provided free with support from Save the Children, made possible by the help of donors.

Aasha says she can now see a big difference in Guled from when he first arrived at the centre, to how he is now.

A nurse’s help proved lifesaving

Nurse Fartoun helped bring Guled on the road to recovery

One of the medical staff that helped Guled at the stabilisation centre was Nurse Fartoun*. From measles to diarrhoea, the 28-year-old nurse has seen it all. “Children admitted at the stabilisation centre have different conditions, some are recovering. Some have just been admitted or are still recovering,” she says. 

But perhaps the most debilitating illness she sees children suffering from here in this rural village in Somalia is acute malnutrition. In the malnutrition stabilisation centre where she works, there has been an increase in children like Guled suffering from this debilitating life-threatening condition.

The passionate nurse connects the children’s worsening health condition to the persistent drought that drives many families to extreme hunger in Somalia. 

Climate change and drought affect people who are dependent on livestock for food or milk ... Drought causes different illnesses, children get sick with diarrhoea, measles and other things. Because of the drought we have been getting more cases than in previous months, more children are getting sick and becoming malnourished.


In the Horn of Africa, four consecutive failed rainy seasons have resulted in an unrelenting drought. Through the years the communities have built their resilience to recurring crises like droughts, with new and innovative ways of managing their devastating effects. But successive shocks of COVID-19, conflict and rising food prices due to the war in Ukraine have made it harder and harder for families like Guled’s to cope. 

With a fifth failed rainy season likely, communities are bracing themselves for even harder times ahead. At the centre of it all are the children who are most affected.

Supported by the generosity of donors, dedicated nurses like Fartoun can have an important role to play to help bring children like Guled along the road to good health.

Aasha is grateful for the high-quality health care provided by Fartoun, which helped her precious little boy recover from severe malnutrition. “We got a lot of help - when he wasn’t able to eat, the health workers helped, he was severely malnourished. But now he’s doing much better,” she says.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.
Photos: Mustafa Saeed/Save the Children

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