Dadaab, Kenya 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.
It’s a rare success story amid unimaginable misery for parents at the world’s largest refugee camp — a place where a father must bury two of his daughters one day, and their brother the next.
Seven-month-old Minhaj though now weighs more than 8 pounds — still well below what he should for his age, but a major improvement from 7 pounds when he first arrived at a field hospital ward here.
“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 a journalist who was taking his picture.
It’s a miracle for his mother, and a testament to just how hard doctors and other health care workers here are trying to save lives as more and more malnourished children arrive each day.
“He has no problem compared to the past days,” said his mother Asiah Dagane, who now 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 far less fortunate: New arrivals at Dadaab 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 so that the entire family did not perish.
As Minhaj’s mother celebrated his recovery on Saturday, Muhumed Surow had to bury his 1-year-old daughter Liin, who died from malnourishment overnight after the family reached this refugee camp too late to save her.
The 27-year-old father sat about 10 yards away from the thigh-deep grave of his little girl. Dozens of refugees attended the funeral at the edge of Ifo Extension, part of the Dadaab camps. Surow sobbed in a squatting position as fellow mourners tried to console him.