Amira’s story

From severe acute malnutrition to recovery in eight weeks

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
Amira is fed ready-to-use therapeutic food at Gabat nutrition centre.
15 October 2019

Week 1: Amira has all the classical signs of malnutrition; skinny arms, the head appear too big for the body and the skin stays if you pinch her skin.


Amira's mid-upper-arm circumference is measured.

Week 1: Amira’s mid-upper-arm circumference is only 9.9 cm and her weight 4.9 kr. She is immediately admitted to the UNICEF supported outpatient therapeutic programme (OTP) in Aweil.

Amira’s mother, Einas, explains that Amira is refusing to eat and there is no way she can force her. What is causing it she doesn’t know. Amira is getting thinner by the day.

“She is sitting tired, without eating or drinking and we are all worried.” My husband doesn’t live with us, but he is constantly on the phone asking, ‘how is my daughter’?”


Amira is sitting on her mother's lap holding a sachet of ready-to-use therapeutic food.

Week 1: While the actual treatment of the acute malnutrition is happening at home, Einas is given a week’s ration of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) which she slowly hand-feeds Amira three times a day. Every week, Einas return to the clinic for a progress check-up of Amira before a new RUTF ration is provided.


Amira' is playing with peanuts.

Week 5: There are significant improvements in Amira’s health after only five weeks. She is gaining weight by the day, she eats the RUTF but also other foods and is a lot more active. She is smiling more and interacting with the many family members in her household.


Amira is sitting on her mother's lap.

Week 5: Amira is much more talkative now that she is feeling better and her energy is up. Many of the things Amira is saying is cracking Einas up.


Amira is "helping" her mother Einas with the dishes in their home in Aweil.

Week 8: Amira now weighs 6.5 kg, her mid-upper-arm circumference is 12.5 cm.

At home, she if often “helping” with the dishes and playing with the dog, Einas explains.

“I’m so happy, I even thank God before going to sleep at night,” Einas says.


UNICEF nutritionist Jesca Wude Murye is measuring Amira's mid-upper-arm circumference.

Week 8: “UNICEF has given her [Amira] support and you have encouraged her and as a result I am very happy, and I really appreciate the support you have given her, and I have to thank you for not letting me down, I am so grateful to you for everything,” Einas is finishing.


UNICEF South Sudan’s nutrition programme is generously supported by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, ECHO.