Humanitarian Story – Lifesaving Response to Malnutrition

Sara is a 22-year-old mother who lives in a remote village. She has only one child, a nine-month-old daughter named Shakuria. Shakuria was suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), a condition that affects many children in Afghanistan due to current economic crisis, poverty, food insecurity, lack of health services and awareness, and cultural barriers.

Sara had no hope for her daughter’s survival until she met Medair’s health and nutrition team. Medair is a humanitarian organization that provides health, nutrition, mental health, psychosocial support, water and sanitation services and emergency food assistance to vulnerable crisis-affected populations in Afghanistan. Medair’s project aims to reduce excess morbidity and mortality through increased access to quality integrated life-saving services.

A child being screened for malnutrition at Medair’s health and nutrition clinic, Central Afghanistan

Medair’s health and nutrition clinic operates in a rural area of Southern Afghanistan, where Sara brought her daughter for treatment. The health and nutrition team examined Shakuria and diagnosed her with SAM, a life-threatening condition that requires urgent intervention. They enrolled Shakuria in the Outpatient Therapeutic Program, where she received ready-to-use therapeutic food, a high-energy peanut-based paste that helps malnourished children recover. They also provided Sara with nutrition counseling and education on infant and young child feeding practices.

“I am very happy that the very bad health condition of a half-alive child changed, and my child was rescued from death. Now I have many hopes for the life of my beautiful child. Dear Medair team, thank you very much for your services,” Sara said.

She added: “We mothers receive useful advice, counselling and education on caring for babies and their safety, and we have learned how to exclusively breastfeed the child up to six months and how to take good care of our child and give vaccination doses on time. We have also received psychological support counseling as needed and now our daily life is much better than before.”

Sara’s daughter Shakuria is one of the many children who are benefiting from Medair’s health and nutrition services. Medair’s health and nutrition team also offers other essential health services, such as integrated management of childhood and neonatal Illness for children under 5 years, immunization, antenatal care, postnatal care, birth spacing counselling, first aid and basic trauma care. In addition, Medair provides mental health and psychosocial support services to address the psychosocial needs of the affected population, such as mental health consultations, counseling, and referrals.

One of Medair’s Afghan medical staff, said: “We are very proud of our work here. We see the positive impact of our services on the lives of the people. We see children recovering from malnutrition, mothers delivering their babies safely, families being protected from diseases. We see hope and resilience in their eyes.”

He continued: “I value my profession and the service I provide for the most vulnerable beneficiaries and patients and malnourished children, and I am very proud of my profession. Treating ill and malnourished children and solving their nutritional problems gives me more positive energy.”

Another medical staff member, said: “Since our services are mostly for malnourished children, based on my observations and experience, these children are very weak and thin before receiving the services and most of them have poor growth. After treatment, there are many positive changes in their health and nutrition condition. This is a very big and significant difference. We mostly treat children whose chances of survival are slim.”

Medair’s project also involves awareness-raising activities to increase the demand and utilization of health and nutrition services. Medair has trained and supported community Health and Nutrition Volunteers who conduct health education sessions, active screening for malnutrition at household level, referrals, and follow-up.

Zahra, a Community Health, and Nutrition Volunteer who works with Medair, said: “I am very happy to be part of this project. I feel that I am making a difference in my community. I help mothers and children access the health and nutrition services they need. I also educate them on how to prevent malnutrition and improve their health.”

Medair’s project is a lifeline for many people in rural Southern Afghanistan who face multiple challenges due to conflict, displacement, poverty, and lack of access to basic services. Medair is committed to reaching the most vulnerable and marginalized groups with quality integrated life-saving health and nutrition services.


*All names have been changed for security purposes.