Reporter's Notebook: Emaciated Somali Tot Now a Healthy, Chubby Toddler

PHOTO: Minhaj Gedi Farah

You only have to look at the before and after images to understand Minhaj Gedi Farah's remarkable story of survival.

When the 7-month-old Somali boy was admitted to the International Rescue Committee's hospital in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee complex, he was emaciated and on the brink of death.

His family was one of hundreds of thousands of Somalis who streamed across the border hoping to flee the fighting and famine that is engulfing their country. They braved punishing conditions, including heat and dust as they traveled to Kenya, many of them on foot.

Weighing just 6.83 pounds, Minhaj's cheeks were gaunt and his body was skeletal. But after three months of care, nourishment including the vitamin packed peanut and three blood transfusions by the doctors at the IRC hospital, Minhaj is now a picture of health.

"We saw a completely different child," said the IRC's head nurse-nutritionist Sirat Amin.

Minhaj is one of the lucky ones as we witnessed for ourselves when we spent 10 days at the IRC camp in July. How You Can Help

What we saw was heart wrenching and impossible to forget. The hospitals were packed with children suffering from acute malnutrition, their mothers by their bedside, cradling them, praying they'll live to see another day.

One indelible story was the story of the Jareh family we met when we were there. Abdullah, his wife, mother and four kids left Somalia in search of food and water, a better life.

They began the 25 day trek with little food and drink, just whatever they could salvage and carry on their backs. We found out that his wife had made the ultimate sacrifice as a mother along the way. She gave her food to her starving children instead of feeding herself. She eventually died from hunger.

As if the family had been punished enough, there was Abdullah's little boy, Aden. So weak, so malnourished, Aden was barely clinging to life. The IRC's community workers found him when they were going from tent to tent searching for malnourished children.

They rushed Aden to the hospital where he was given the care he so desperately needed and his father told us he was getting better and he was making progress.

Aden's ordeal is really the story of this place and the story of the sea of people spilling into these camps every day. When we spoke Dr. Malia Kader, one of the doctors in the IRC ward, she told us that their resources were stretched and because of the influx of cases coming in there had been a lot of strain on the system.

"The kind of support we need is funding," Malia said to buy essential items including "simple life saving antibiotics, therapeutic feeds which have high calorie values to increase the amount of energy. It's relatively easy to save their lives, and relatively simple."'

As the fighting and famine continues in Somalia so too does the number of refugees pouring across the border from Somalia into eastern Kenya. But seeing Minhaj's cherubic cheeks and Aden's road to recovery can't help but hope these stories offer glimmers of hope in this otherwise frustrating, difficult and unimaginable humanitarian disaster.

For more information about how you can help, go to Million Moms

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