A mountain of hope from Sudan's South Kordofan

A young Sudanese boy beats malnutrition

Mai El Shoush
Woman smiles with baby
UNICEF/Abdoosh Ahmed
20 October 2019

In the community of Kadugli, South Kordofan state in Sudan, 3-year old Adib Adam Kafi is happiest when having fun with the other children and playing with his mother and father. Surrounded by the stunning lush green mountains of Kadugli, their home is nestled within a field of tall sorghum plants. Adib’s mother Najwa Kafi Karakun, whose warm smile seems to never disappear from her face, revealed that her little energetic and cheeky boy, was not always this way. 

Less than a year ago, Adib fell dangerously ill from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) to the point where his weight began to drastically drop, and the family also noticed swelling in his legs. “When we found the lump in his leg we were so scared I thought we were going to lose him,” said Najwa. “We rushed him to the hospital and they immediately referred us to the local UNICEF-supported health centre where staff informed us Adib had severe malnutrition and was admitted as an emergency case.” 

At least 700,000 children under the age of five in Sudan suffer from SAM. With stretched resources, UNICEF is able to reach only 300,000, making the gap and need for support more urgent than ever. Malnutrition is preventable and treatable. 

UNICEF Sudan works to treat and prevent malnutrition in Sudan through the provision of both nutrition specific interventions such as the treatment of severely malnourished children, micronutrient supplementation, counselling on good infant and young child feeding and care practices as well as nutrition sensitive interventions including vaccinations. 

UNICEF, alongside the Ministry of Health, provides nutrition education and counselling to mothers and caregivers through health facilities, and through community-based Mother Support Groups (MSGs).

Woman smiles at camera wearing colorful thobe
UNICEF/Abdoosh Ahmed
Najwa's son Adib fell dangerously ill from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

As a mother of five, Najwa, is also a member of her local MSG with a focus on empowering mothers and families by equipping them with the support and knowledge to live a healthy and happy life. 

“Through the Mother Support Group discussions, we learned the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and hygiene and sanitation habits. Now, if I or any of the mothers suspect that a child is suffering from malnutrition we speak to the family and recommend they seek treatment at the health centre,” said the 26-year old. 

Najwa then began to recall the night she stayed by Adib’s hospital bed when he was admitted, and how to her amazement he began to recover quickly following the nutritional treatment he was provided. 

“The medical staff told us Adib was severely lacking in protein for example, and gave him what his body needed including water, milk and the plumpy nut with the vitamins and minerals,” she said."They explained he needed good nutritious food and variety in his diet, so I asked them more questions to learn the options.” 

Najwa and her family work in farming and their food intake and quantity depends on the season. “It can be difficult to find the right variety sometimes, but we try our best.  We make sure to wash his hands always and especially before food,” she added. 

Malnutrition is largely caused by poor water and sanitation conditions, high disease prevalence, increased food costs, poverty, and lack of food variety and essential nutrients. 

Looking out in the direction of her son playing under the bright afternoon sun, Najwa smiled and said she couldn’t be happier that her son is running and playing. When he was sick, he could barely move due to the pain in his legs. “Now we can’t get him to stand still,” she laughed.

Najwa hopes to attend more workshops to continue spreading awareness to as many families as she can, so no one has to experience the unnecessary pain her little boy went through. 

The generous donations through the EU Humanitarian Aid, the Governments of Japan, Sweden and the United States and the Central Emergency Response Fund CERF have made this support possible.