Dayse and her fight to overcome malnutrition at the age of 6

Being only 6 years old, Dayse has already faced difficulties that should not be part of any child's life: she had to leave her native country, Venezuela, and overcome severe malnutrition in Brazil

uma menina está em um espaço com redes. ela está encostada em uma rede, sorrindo
UNICEF/BRZ/Daniel Tancredi
20 September 2021

Anyone who sees the energy Dayse now shows, always with a smile on her face as she runs around with her friends, cannot imagine the struggles the little girl has been through in her only six years of life. Dayse, a Warao native, is one of more than 5 million people who left Venezuela due to the economic and social crisis in her country. Besides the long journey to get to Brazil, Dayse also faced another issue that threatens the future of children and adolescents: malnutrition.

Dayse crossed the border into Brazil in 2018, along with her family: her father, mother, and two sisters. They arrived by bus to Pacaraima (Roraima State), and stayed there for three months before heading to the state capital, Boa Vista, where they now live in the Pintolandia shelter. This shelter is one of the centers that receive refugees and migrants maintained by “Operation Welcome”, the official response of the Brazilian Government and partners to the humanitarian crisis.

When the girl arrived at the indigenous shelter – she and her family belong to the Warao indigenous ethnicity, one of the largest communities in Venezuela – her short stature and thinness evidenced a case of severe malnutrition.

Nurse Juciane Cruz and Dayse, in a picture from early in the treatment, in 2019.
ADRA Brasil
Nurse Juciane Cruz and Dayse, in a picture from early in the treatment, in 2019.

"We left our country and came to Brazil out of the need to survive. We couldn't buy medicine, clothes, and especially food anymore. There was nothing left for us", sadly recalls Aracelis Sembrant, Dayse's mother.

The process of migration to Brazil aggravated Dayse's malnutrition, which alerted the UNICEF team.

"Time is very important in the issue of malnutrition. The sooner we can begin to intervene, the more likely the child is to overcome and reverse the situation", says Daiana Pena, UNICEF's Health and Nutrition officer in Roraima.

The UNICEF health and nutrition team monitors, in partnership with ADRA Brasil, started the girl´s treatment. "She had a hard time gaining weight and one of the main challenges we found was to gain her confidence", points out Pamela Mar, nutritionist at ADRA Brasil.


As time went by, Dayse gradually became accustomed to the monitors at the shelter and, little by little, with activities and games, the regular and close accompaniment at mealtimes enabled a relationship of trust to be established. Dayse started to familiarize and enjoy this care routine.

Sachets from the NutriSUS program – a strategy to fortify children's food with micronutrient powders - were added to Dayse's meals to supplement important vitamins and minerals for her proper development. In addition, she began to receive meals based on a nutritional recovery plan to get her out of malnutrition.

Children like Dayse are often found in the Venezuelan displacement process, where people cross the border in situations of high vulnerability. In 2020, UNICEF conducted 16,293 nutritional consultations in shelters for refugees and migrants from Venezuela in Roraima, having identified and treated 186 malnourished children under 5 years of age.

UNICEF, through a partnership with Adra Brasil, provides meals for malnourished children and adolescents.
UNICEF/BRZ/Daniel Tancredi
UNICEF, through a partnership with Adra Brasil, provides meals for malnourished children and adolescents.

After months of treatment, Dayse was able to reverse her malnutrition. Nowadays, with ideal weight and height for her age, she continues to receive close monitoring from UNICEF's health and nutrition teams in the shelters. She is now in good health and willingness to run with other children, play ball, and have fun.

Acknowledgment to donors – UNICEF's work on the humanitarian nutrition response is made possible through the support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the State Department of the United States and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).