A journey back to life: Lutfieh smiles again

"We didn’t realise earlier how sick Lutfieh was”

B. Rahimov and T. Mekkawi from UNICEF, and an NGO's health and nutrition officer
A child

09 May 2019

In war-torn northern Syria in Aleppo; 18 months old Lutfieh was born and abandoned by her mother. She was fragile and weak; suffering from malnutrition despite her grandmother's care.  

Poor childcare and lack of food made her severely malnourished. She stopped playing and interacting properly because of brain atrophy – a consequence of severe complicated acute malnutrition.

Lutfieh was a step away from death

“I tried to take better care of her, but no one can replace a mother. We didn’t realise earlier how sick Lutfieh was,"

Lutfieh’s grandmother trying to hide her guilt.

Due to the ongoing conflict, a large number of internally displaced people fled Aleppo and sought refuge in Afrin and Idlib governorates. Lutfieh’s family was no exception.

UNICEF in northwestern Syria supports women and children in camps and communities. UNICEF works in partnership non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the provision of life-saving nutrition service for all emergency-affected children, pregnant and lactating women. Regular screening diagnoses malnourished children, pregnant and lactating women in life-threatening conditions and supports timely initiation of treatment.

In Afrin, an NGO's nutrition staff found Lutfieh suffering from a critical condition during a regular nutrition screening. She was immediately hospitalised. In the hospital, Lutfeih received medical treatment and therapeutic food.

“When I first examined Lutfeih I couldn’t believe that she was 15 months old.  I thought she was younger. The little girl couldn’t sit. She had no signs of teething. She was powerless. I decided to take her with me to the health centre for urgent treatment,”

Heba, a community health worker at an NGO.

Over a month, Lutfeih fought for her life. Therapeutic food, medical treatment, tender care and love revived her. She gained weight and the sickness was gone.

Following her discharge from the hospital, the NGO's team continued their regular home visits to ensure that the disease never returns. Lutfeih is now as healthy as she has ever been. She overcame death and is smiling again.


“We do our best in partnership with UNICEF to reach every child through essential nutrition services in the field. There are many other children like Lutfeih who need attention and care,”

an NGO Health and Nutrition Programme Manager

On average, under the support of UNICEF there are over 650 children under five years of age treated for severe acute malnutrition every month in Afrin and Idlib governorates.