Fighting for life

Absatou's story: A community fighting
malnutrition in North Cameroon

It's the worst nightmare of every mother – knowing that their child is seriously ill but being unable to obtain the medicines needed to treat them.

For Habiba Sadou, when her baby daughter began vomiting and bleeding from her nose and mouth the experience was all the worse because she had already lost four children in such tragic circumstances, each succumbing to illness before their second birthday. Now her beautiful baby girl called Absatou faced a similar struggle for life, with the child’s situation deteriorating all the time.

Habiba spent months trying different herbal concoctions in the hope that this would help the newborn child, but nothing would help. When her husband did not provide money for hospital treatment she moved to her brother's house in Bilavai where she was finally able to secure the right medicines.

However Absatou’s condition remained grim and the complications persisted, her mother increasingly fraught.

Then one day Habiba was visited by a community health worker who immediately noticed that Absatou was severely malnourished.

The door to door visits by community health workers are part of a healthcare and nutrition programme funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and implemented by International Medical Corps. The visits are aimed at screening acute malnutrition in young children.

I hope to see every sick child in the community benefit from this programme – to see every child like Absatou given a chance at a healthy life.

The community health worker immediately referred Absatou to the Goudour health centre, which then organised her transfer to the stabilisation centre at the Mokolo district hospital.

The little girl responded well to the treatment and after only two weeks her condition showed signs of marked improvement.

"Every day I saw that she looked better and better," Habiba said thankfully. “She has gotten her life back.”

For two weeks Absatou was treated with medicine and ready-made milk and food supplements. International Medical Corps also helped Habiba pay for her journey to the stabilisation centre and back to Bilavai, essential in order to ensure long-term treatment could be secured.

I am so grateful for this support,” she said. “My child was sick and I had no financial means to help her – now she is healthy again.”

With Absatou recovered, Habiba received a hygiene kit and training to help her maintain good hygiene and sanitation practices at home in order to keep her and her daughter healthy.

It warms my heart to see my child healthy and playing with other children again,” she said.

The above article first published on in 2016.