Doctor: Malnourished Somali baby doing well

August 6, 2011 - 10:13 AM
Kenya East Africa Famine

Minhaj Gedi Farah, a seven-month-old child who arrived with a weight of 3.4 kilos Tuesday, July 26, 201 at the International Rescue Committee hospital in the Eastern Kenyan village of Hagadera near Dadaab, 100 kms (60 miles) from the Somali border, is photographed in his mother's hands, Saturday Aug. 6, 2011. Minhaj condition drastically improved since his arrival, his current weight being 3.8 kilos. The drought and famine in the horn of Africa has killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone, according to U.S. estimates. The U.N. says 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished, suggesting the death toll of small children will rise. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

DADAAB, Kenya (AP) — Only 10 days ago, Minhaj Gedi Farah was too weak to cry and his skin crumpled liked thin leather under the pressure of his mother's hands. Now doctors say the severely malnourished 7-month-old appears out of danger of joining the more than 29,000 children who already have died in the famine.

The little boy now weighs more than 8 pounds (3.8 kilograms) — still well below what he should for his age, but a major improvement from 7 pounds (3.2 kilograms) when he first arrived at a Kenyan field hospital ward.

"He is in stable condition and he is doing well," said Dr. John Kiogora of the International Rescue Committee, who has been treating the infant since his arrival in late July.

Startling photos of Minhaj's twig-like arms and hollow cheeks made him the frail face of the worst famine in 60 years. On Saturday, though, the wide-eyed baby looked around the ward inquisitively and became captivated with the journalist who was taking his picture.

It's a miracle for his mother, and a testament to how hard doctors and other health care workers here are trying to save lives as more malnourished children arrive each day.

"He has no problem compared to the past days," said his mother Asiah Dagane, who smiles broadly and frequently plants kisses on the baby's cheeks. "Now he sleeps the bulk of the night. When he wakes up, he is hungry and wants milk."

Most parents have been less fortunate: New arrivals at the world's largest refugee camp have described losing as many as four children to starvation and disease along the journey by foot from Somalia. Others made unthinkable decisions about which children to take with them, and which to leave for dead under trees.

More than 29,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone, according to U.S. estimates. The U.N. says 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished, suggesting the death toll of small children will rise in the coming weeks.

Here in this hospital ward with drawings of fruit and Arabic letters on the wall, Minhaj is one of the lucky ones. The stabilization center run by the IRC is totally full, forcing the group to set up a tent for the increasing number of malnourished children who arrive each day.

Doctors hope that Minhaj can soon leave the ward, though he'll routine for regular monitoring and checkups.

"I'm very happy and very joyful," his doctor said. "That is the best thing, I think, I have done for this child to make sure I've saved his life."

___

How to help: http://www.interaction.org/crisis-list/interaction-members-respond-droug...