A small girl takes on a big fight, and wins

The lifesaving paste that is beating back malnutrition in Sudan

Florine Bos
UNICEF/Florine Bos

31 October 2019

According to her aunt, two-year old Gisma is often happy and playful, but the little girl can also have moody periods. She is most happy when she eats foods that she likes, such as meat, potatoes and eggs. 

One year ago, Gisma’s mother became sick and was unable to breastfeed her daughter. Breastfeeding has a profound impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development.   Without this vital source of nutrition, Gisma’s weight dropped rapidly. She had no appetite and had less energy every day. Sadly, Gisma’s mother died. 

UNICEF/Florine Bos
Gisma with her aunt at a UNICEF-supported health centre.

As her condition deteriorated, Gisma’s family took her to the hospital and she was quickly admitted after being diagnosed with severe malnutrition. By this time she was unable to walk. Luckily, Gisma received lifesaving therapeutic care and food – first at the in-patient ward and then later at the out-patient ward of a nearby health centre. Today, Gisma can stand and now even walk. She has more energy and loves to play and laugh with the neighbour’s children.

Crucial to Gisma’s continued recovery are the sachets of ready-to-eat therapeutic food (RUTF) that are safely stored at a cupboard in her aunt’s house. RUTF is a tasty nutrient-packed paste that UNICEF has found to be the most effective tools for treating acute and severe malnutrition. Whenever Gisma is hungry she points at the cupboard, because there is nothing that she likes more than this super peanut paste.

UNICEF/Florine Bos
Whenever Gisma is hungry she points at the cupboard, because there is nothing that she likes more than this super peanut paste.

RUTF is used by UNICEF to help the millions of children threatened by acute malnutrition worldwide. In Sudan has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Approximately 2.5 million children under five are malnourished, of which 700,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. These children are at risk of dying if they do not receive immediate therapeutic food and care. In South Kordofan, where Gisma lives, an estimated 13,700 children are severely, acutely malnourished. UNICEF has reached 7,558 cases of severe acute malnutrition so far this year. 

Thanks to the generous contribution from the Government of the United States of America – through its Food for Peace programme – Gisma and many more children received life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition.