Kenya's Refugees: A Perilous Journey for Food and Freedom

VIDEO: Teams deliver food and supplies to starving families in
WATCH Somalian Refugee Camp's Emergency Airlift

This morning, we boarded the U.N. plane in Nairobi, Kenya, and soon the view out the window was of a parched landscape. We were making our way to a land where hundreds of thousands have already arrived on foot, some walking more than 100 miles to food and freedom.

It is estimated up to 1,500 people make the perilous journey from Somalia to Kenya every day, the vast majority being mothers and children. When we landed, we found doctors, nurses, entire teams of aid workers literally feeding children back to life.

On the ground, the dust could not hide the dire need. But soon, we discovered something else: the resiliency of the children.

I asked Dr. Unni Karunakara, president of the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, how long it takes to see a difference in the kids.

"In one or two days," he said. "Within a day or two, sometimes you see somebody sit up."

See What David Muir Is Seeing in the Dadaab Refugee Camp

Doctors Without Borders allowed us into its intensive care unit, where we met a mother and her 8-month-old daughter, whose eyes were barely open, only able to muster enough energy for a blank stare, a sure sign of malnutrition.

Another baby girl came in a week ago from Somalia with her sisters. A clinic worker told us they were all starving when they arrived, but she has seen them get better before her eyes.

Dr. Ruth Mayforth, a pediatric surgeon from Springfield, Ill., has never experienced anything like this. She shows us a baby wrapped in a special heating blanket. Even in the stifling heat of the desert, it is needed to keep the tiny body going.

Another key to survival is a simple supplement made of peanuts and milk powder. It is saving lives one mini-meal at a time.

The supplement is helping fragile bodies sit up and gain weight, one desperately needed pound at a time. Doctors Without Borders calls it a powerful tool in its arsenal.

Essentially, it is a meal in a package for children who are severely malnourished. In many cases, children are given two packages a day. It costs less than a dollar and is a tiny piece of hope in a region desperate for help.

Follow David Muir reporting on Twitter @DavidMuirABC