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By Erin Rutherford
31 October 2022

Mahasin was worried when her daughter Mehrab started suffering from fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. She was rushed to hospital in Sudan and it was confirmed that her daughter was suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the most severe form of malnutrition.

"She was very weak, her eyes sunken and could hardly afford the smile you see today. She could hardly hold anything in her stomach and was unable to breastfeed"

20 year old mother of two

Mehrab commenced treatment for malnutrition using highly nutritious therapeutic milks while her mother continued to breastfeed her. Once she improves, she will be transitioned onto a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), like Plumpy’Nut®, once she passes an appetite test,

Even though Mehrab has only been hospitalised for 10 days, she is improving fast. She will remain in hospital so that she can continue to recuperate under the supervision of the health care team.

Child with big brown eyes and cheeky smile
One year old Mehrab and her mother in a stabilisation centre in Sudan
© UNICEF/UN0686662/Abdalrasol © UNICEF/UN0686625/Abdalrasol

What are therapeutic milks?

When children are suffering from severe forms of malnutrition, their little bodies are unable to tolerate their usual foods. Therapeutic milks have been created to provide a gentle and highly nutritious solution to commence their recovery.

A health care worker prepares milk for a malnourished child
Preparing therapeutic milk / A mother gives her child therapeutic milk.
© UNICEF/UN0686608/Abdalrasol © UNICEF/UN0686578/Abdalrasol

Meet Afaf and her team of heroes

While children are being cared for in the stabilisation centre, mothers and caretakers are given nutrition counselling by a nutritionist, like Afaf. In these sessions they are taught about infant and young child feeding with an emphasis on malnutrition and how it can be prevented; the benefits of breastfeeding; food diversity, and other important topics.

"Mothers learn a lot and put into practice what they have learnt. The change in behaviour is critical for sustained solutions."

Photo of Afaf Mohammed Briema
Afaf Mohammed Briema
UNICEF Health and Nutrition Specialist

UNICEF’s support to children and their families includes immediate life-saving interventions and the provision of nutritional education for sustainable solutions that are key in improving proper feeding habits for children, into the future.

Nutrition counselling in Sudan
Afaf, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Specialist with mothers at an educational and food demonstration session for mothers.
© UNICEF/UN0686668/Abdalrasol © UNICEF/UN0686678/Abdalrasol

Mehrab and the other children in the stablisation centre are just a fraction of the children who are currently suffering from malnutrition around the world. In Sudan alone 650,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with that number predicted to rise due to the current crises happening in the region and around the world.

With Mehrab’s health improving, she will be leaving the centre in a few weeks. Her mother is determined to put into practice the lessons learned from the team to ensure her daughter fully recovers.

Baby sits on their mothers lap while in hospital
Mehrab sits on her mother's lap. She is currently being treated for malnutrition, while her mother receives nutritional education.
© UNICEF/UN0686620/Abdalrasol

"I will continue breastfeeding my child until she is two years. The doctors told me this will help her recover faster and that breastmilk has many nutrients."


Because of your support, UNICEF is on the ground, fearlessly delivering life-saving supplies and therapeutic food to children who need them most.