A malnourished daughter and a determined mother: a story of resilience and survival

When Adama discovered her daughter was malnourished, she jumped on an opportunity to save her.

UNICEF staff discuss with a mother of a malnourished child
11 May 2021

Adama is the third wife of her husband. She has four children and lives in a family of 29 members. Her husband is a farmer with no other skills to generate income to sustain the family.  Adama has adopted five children of her deceased co-wife. She lives in a village called Checken which is 10 kilometers from the provincial town of Farafenni, in the North Bank Region of the country.

Adama explains her frustration of feeding her sick child when the other children go hungry because they have nothing to eat. Some even cry and “I have nowhere to hide”, she says. Adama also explained that one of her sons had suffered from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) when he was younger. Her family situation coupled with potential food insecurity within her household are some of the key drivers of acute malnutrition in the family.

Nonetheless, she benefitted from the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) project, as she was trained alongside other mothers in her community through a programme supported by UNICEF to identify children with acute malnutrition in her community.  She joins her fellow mothers for frequent screening and counseling sessions for mothers on optimal infant and young child feeding.

After going through the training, she decided to assess her daughter, Fatou, and found her to be severely acutely malnourished. Fatou is 17 months old, she looks sick, drowsy, and is barely interested in anything around her. Adama’s MUAC screening skills, saw the quick enrollment of Fatou into the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) treatment programme.

“The therapeutic food is good, and I can see some improvement since Fatou started taking it”, she says. Fatou is being monitored frequently by the health worker who checks on Adama and counsels her on the types of food to feed her daughter. Her recovery from the sickness is slow, but Adama is very hopeful.

In The Gambia, UNICEF is working assiduously with partners including Government institutions to meet the needs of children affected by malnutrition using cost effective and sustainable methods. Training of mothers and their peers to be able to screen their children of malnutrition is adding value to the work of UNICEF in rural communities, especially in communities with no primary health facilities. UNICEF holds that, as mothers and women are often the primary care givers, it is important that they are equipped with the relevant skills and tools that can enable them to be the first responders to their children’s health needs.